Weekend Box Office: GHOSTBUSTERS FROZEN EMPIRE Heats Up Big Grosses

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, Courtesy of Sony

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

As Doug E. Fresh once said, “The Ghostbusters are back and all brand new.” Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, the fourth film in the IP’s legacy timeline and fifth film overall, has taken in a projected $45.2 million in its opening frame (just slightly above Ghostbusters: Afterlife‘s debut) to place #1 for the weekend. This was at the highest end of our predictions. It was also enough for the franchise to cross the $1 billion mark globally. Here’s how the weekend played out over 4,345 locations…

  • Friday – $16.000 million
  • Saturday – $16.875 million
  • Sunday – $12.325 million

Internationally Frozen Empire took in $16.4 million across 7,500+ screens in 25 markets, 15% ahead of Ghostbusters: Afterlife for those same markets. Worldwide the movie currently stands at an estimated $61.6 million. Here are some key territories, with the UK leading the pack:

  • UK – $5.3 million
  • Mexico – $2.7 million.
  • Australia – $2.0 million
  • Germany – $1.7 million.
  • Spain – $1.3 million
  • Indonesia – $600K

Pairing Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon on the promo circuit with the original cast members brought positive vibes for audiences. In particular, the decision to put Bill Murray front-and-center in both promo and marketing material (despite some sticky recent allegations) did not backfire.

Ghostbusters itself is an oddball franchise in that it’s always had one foot in the comedy realm and the other in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror genre category. The first genre-bending release was a monster, topping the box office charts for eight weeks in the summer of 1984 on its way to becoming the #1 movie of that year, taking in $242 million domestic. Despite still standing as one of the most iconic movies of the 80’s, Columbia/Sony struggled to build-out a viable franchise from such a solid foundation—puzzling given the potential of both the sci-fi world building and the opportunity to add more comedy heavyweights to the Buster’s roster.

The first sequel, released five years later, was expected to rule the summer of 1989 as well, but wound up at #7 for the year and grossed less-than-half the original. The core creatives (Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd) and stars (Bill Murray, Ramis, Aykroyd) could not coalesce for a third installment before the eventual death of co-creator/co-star Ramis in 2014, so an all-female 2016 reboot (often given the subtitle Answer the Call) was put together by director Paul Feig, featuring fleeting cameos from the original Ghostbusters cast in different roles. Despite taking in $229.1 million worldwide, this alternate timeline reboot was a bomb compared to its $140+ million budget.

Rather than throwing baby Oscar out with the pink slimy bathwater, Sony called on Ivan Reitman’s son, director Jason Reitman, to carry the torch with 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife. A legacy sequel tailored more towards a nostalgic family audience than comedy, its $204.3 million global haul was considered respectable given the late-COVID release date and more modest $75 million budget. Paul Rudd was the only real modern-day comedy star added to the lineup. Like Afterlife, this weekend’s followup Frozen Empire (directed by Gil Kenan) continues the youth-focused story of the Spengler grandchildren while also bringing out the remaining original stars (Murray, Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts) to bridge the two generations of audiences. A few more comedy ringers (Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, James Acaster) did not hurt.

The question is, did the long-term gambit pay off? Given the relative parity between the opening grosses of the three most recent films in the franchise, it seems there is definitely a ceiling for this IP. Compare opening numbers of the other four films to-date…

  • Ghostbusters (1984) – $13,612,564 million ($40,657,675M adjusted)
  • Ghostbusters II (1989) – $29,472,894 million ($73,759,720M adjusted)
  • Ghostbusters (2016) – $46,018,755 million
  • Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) – $44,008,406 million
  • Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024) – $45.2 million

These numbers are on-par even compared to the original film’s adjusted opening, although it’s unlikely this new entry will have the staying power of that film, especially with competition from Godzilla X Kong‘s rampage next weekend. The only outlier of the small group of films was Ghostbusters II, which was riding the wave of the first film and five years of anticipation, despite an ultimately mixed response from audiences after that massive front-loaded opening.

Frozen Empire clearly did not have that level of anticipation, though it appears Sony has stayed the course from Afterlife by keeping it a family-leaning choice safe enough to grab the top spot, despite a 43% Rotten Tomatoes rating. While this opening is not a significant drop from Afterlife, it also was not the kind of uptick studios generally look for. Hopefully the film can leg it out to justify the $100 million budget plus P&A spend, even if critical word of mouth is iffy and CinemaScore is a “B+.” With an 84% Rotten Tomatoes audience score and a 4-star PostTrak rating, it seems that audiences may be enjoying the new installment more than the critical establishment.

It should also be noted that as a filmmaker, Gil Kenan (who we spoke with this week) has a solid track record when it comes to ghostly subject matter. His animated debut Monster House brought in $141.2 million worldwide in 2006, while his 2015 remake of Poltergeist took in $95.6 million globally. If nothing else, perhaps his work on Ghostbusters will nudge Kenan closer to the A-list.

Other Notable Performances

Warners and Legendary’s Dune: Part Two continues to hold well, staying at #2 for the third week with an estimated $17.6 million domestically on 3437 screens for a -38% drop in its 4th frame. This was enough to place it ahead of previous competition, Kung Fu Panda 4. Overseas it grossed an estimated $30.7M on 28,636 screens in 73 markets for a -41% international drop. Domestically the second Dune film can boast $233,359,000 million, while the global cume currently stands at $574.4m through Sunday. An estimated $12 million of the global weekend gross was through IMAX screenings, with the large format taking in $124 million on the title to date, enough to make it the 8th highest grossing IMAX title of all time. Expect the global to cross the $600 million landmark by next week.

Dreamworks and Universal’s Kung Fu Panda 4 dropped two places to #3 with $16.8 million domestically as the Ghostbusters took a big bite of the family audience Po the panda had hoarded the last two weekends. Overseas the animated film continues to rollout into major territories including China, Italy, Brazil and The Netherlands for an estimated $55.3 million haul and $268.1M global take. China took the biggest chomp at $25.7M across 40,000 screens. That’s still a long ways away from previous worldwide takes for the franchise, which run between $506M-$664M, although the domestic cume of $133.2M should surpass Kung Fu Panda 3‘s $143.5M shortly.

Rising star Sydney Sweeney played against her sexy image by portraying a nun in Neon’s psychological horror film Immaculate, which opened soft with an estimated $5,360,000 million on 2354 screens to land at #4. That’s slightly more than half what Blumhouse’s horror entry Imaginary took during its opening frame two weeks ago. The PSA of $2,277 was healthy enough, but as counter-programming to Ghostbusters it may not be enough to justify P&A despite a budget south of $10 million, and certainly poses no threat to WB’s The Nun franchise. Rotten Tomatoes has the film at 72% critical/57% audience score and CinemaScore was a “C,” although horror entries are often judged by a slightly lower metric. If Sweeney had followed the smash Anyone But You with two more rom coms it may or may not have been a different story, but the superhero dud Madame Web and now Immaculate have tested what audiences may want from this promising talent.

Cannibalizing the horror audience from Immaculate was IFC Films and Shudder’s far better reviewed (96% on RT) Late Night With the Devil, starring acclaimed character actor David Dastmalchian (Ant-Man, Dune). The indie took in $2,833,419 million on 1,034 screens to place #6, but boasted a $2,740 PSA above that of Immaculate. What could have been an easy toss to Shudder’s streaming service has turned into a surprise theatrical success, especially given a budget rumored to be less than $2 million.

Sunday’s Studio Weekend Estimates:

Title Weekend Estimate % Change Locations Location Change PSA Domestic Total Week Distributor
Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire $45,200,000   4,345   $10,403 $45,200,000 1 Sony Pictures
Dune: Part Two $17,600,000 -38% 3,437 -410 $5,121 $233,359,000 4 Warner Bros.
Kung Fu Panda 4 $16,800,000 -44% 3,805 -262 $4,415 $133,237,000 3 Universal
Immaculate $5,360,000   2,354   $2,277 $5,360,000 1 Neon
Arthur the King $4,360,000 -43% 3,003 n/c $1,452 $14,630,255 2 Lionsgate
Late Night with the Devil $2,833,419   1,034   $2,740 $2,833,419 1 IFC Films
Imaginary $2,800,000 -50% 2,513 -605 $1,114 $23,624,798 3 Lionsgate
Love Lies Bleeding $1,586,476 -37% 1,828 466 $868 $5,680,294 3 A24
Cabrini $1,428,474 -49% 1,765 -1085 $809 $16,163,077 3 Angel Studios
Bob Marley: One Love $1,100,000 -52% 1,266 -1006 $869 $95,317,000 6 Paramount Pi…
One Life $1,013,887 -41% 1,009 26 $1,005 $3,460,279 2 Bleecker Street
Luca $550,000   1,390   $396 $550,000 1 Walt Disney
Exhuma $472,206 680% 67 64 $7,048 $532,718 2 Well Go USA
Problemista $453,568 0.93 237 174 $1,914 $1,296,467 55 A24
The American Society of Magical Negroes $440,000 -66% 1,153 6 $382 $2,205,000 2 Focus Features
Ordinary Angels $331,000 -65% 705 -1048 $470 $18,805,749 5 Lionsgate
Migration $210,000 -63% 401 -478 $524 $126,920,000 14 Universal
YOLO $114,000 -62% 71 -129 $1,606 $1,755,000 3 Sony Pictures
Perfect Days $96,600 -33% 77 -67 $1,255 $3,217,453 20 Neon
Madame Web $83,000 -79% 172 -886 $483 $43,754,000 6 Sony Pictures
The Zone of Interest $62,160 -56% 84 -128 $740 $8,542,224 15 A24
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba—To the Hashira T… $46,000 -73% 73 -184 $630 $17,599,000 5 Crunchyroll
Carol Doda Topless at the Condor $43,023   4   $10,756 $43,023 1 Picturehouse
The Taste of Things $35,419 -32% 70 -5 $506 $2,550,416 20 IFC Films
Poor Things $33,000 -85% 55 -785 $600 $34,524,176 16 Searchlight …
Remembering Gene Wilder $17,646 4.4 7 5 $2,521 $22,221 2 Kino Lorber
Femme $15,075   1   $15,075 $15,075 1 Utopia
Free Time $6,000   1   $6,000 $6,000 1 Cartilage Films
Limbo $5,790   2   $2,895 $5,790 1 Music Box Films
Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, Courtesy of Sony
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