With “Dune: Part Two” (Warner Bros.), March came in like a lion. With “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” (also Warner Bros.), March is going out, well, as a lion. Leave the lamb for Easter dinner.

With an estimated $80 million (actual totals may be higher), Legendary Entertainment’s second big franchise sequel this month falls just shy of the $82 million debut for “Dune 2.” Warner Bros. now looks near certain to have three $200 million and over films since December — the only distributor to achieve that since July.

This could be the best weekend of the year so far, with a tentative estimate of $136.4 million. That includes four films over $10 million, the first time that’s happened this year. All told, this boosted the 2024 year to date; we’re now down by only six percent.

With “Godzilla x Kong,” “Dune: Part Two,” “Kung Fu Panda 4” (Universal) and “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” (Sony) all opening over $40 million, it challenges the growing consensus that sequels were on the downslide.

Instead, March will close around $750 million — bigger than any month (including December) since August, when originals “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” were still in their early weeks.

This weekend was boosted by Friday that was a holiday for some, as well as Easter Sunday. Still, no one expected the latest Monsterverse entry to come close to $80 million; estimates were less than $60 million, which would have been a considered decent return.

With a Cinemascore of A-, audiences clearly seemed satisfied (as opposed to critics, with a lowly 47 Metacritic score). Apart from the holiday boost, it’s hard to explain this performance — but two factors may have helped.

Godzilla Minus One
‘Godzilla Minus One’©Toho Company Ltd/Courtesy Everett Collection

Coming after several weeks of successful sequels, resistance may have been lower (and trailer play, particularly with “Dune 2,” was a plus). However, the domestic success of the Japanese film “Godzilla Minus One” (Toho), which won an Oscar for Visual Effect and grossed an unexpected $56 million domestic, might have boosted interest in the franchise. (That film has been unavailable on any platform for two months).

Initial success for “Godzilla” is worldwide, with an additional $114 million foreign. That includes $44 million from China, a rare recent success for a Hollywood release. Even better news for Warners and Legendary is the film’s production budget was $135 million, making it far easier to achieve a sizeable profit.

More good news for Warners and Legendary is “Dune” dropped only 37 percent, which is particularly impressive since “Godzilla” claimed most premium, higher-priced screens. Denis Villeneuve’s film is now at $252 million, with a domestic $300 million (and worldwide $750 million) possible.

“Panda” at #4 dropped 38 percent and is now over $151 million, potentially reaching $200 million as well. However, “Frozen Empire” dropped 65 percent in its second weekend, reaching $73 million after 10 days. It might not end up much over $100 million.

The rest of the Top 10 is an eclectic mix of indie horror, India, and Lionsgate. Neon’s “Immaculate,” at #5, is off 39 percent with nearly $3.3 million. “Late Night with the Devil” (IFC), is #7 with $2.2 million, down 22 percent. Compared to most horror films, both held extremely well in their second weeks. Two new worldwide Indian releases — “Tillu Square” (Prathyangira) and “Crew” (FunAsia) placed on the list, as well as “Arthur the King” and “Imaginary” (Lionsgate).

LA CHIMERA, Josh O'Connor (on tractor, top right), 2023. © Neon / Curtesy Everett Collection
“La Chimera” Courtesy Everett Collection

Three new openings stood out among platform titles. Despite mixed reviews, “Wicked Little Letters” (Sony Pictures Classics) managed $87,000 ($17,400 per theater) in five locations. Alice Rohrwacher’s acclaimed “La Chimera” (Neon) grossed $45,000 in three. And a single run of Jean-Pierre Melville’s great gangster film “Le Samourai” in New York did $15,000.

Among wider expansions, South Korea’s “Exhuma” grossed $400,000 in 75 theaters. Of note: “Oppenheimer” finally opened in Japan, and at $2.6 million had the best studio opening in that country this year. (“Godzilla” won’t open until late April.)

The Top 10

1. Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 47; Est. budget: $135 million

$80,000,000 in 3,861 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $20,720; Cumulative: $80,000,000

2. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (Sony) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$15,700,000 (-65%) in 4,345 (no change) theaters; PTA: $3,613; Cumulative: $73,401,000

3. Dune: Part Two (Warner Bros.) Week 5; Last weekend #2

$11,100,000 (-37%) in 3,136 (-301) theaters; PTA: $3,540; Cumulative: $252,390,000

4. Kung Fu Panda 4 (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend #3

$10,200,000 (-38%) in 3,582 (-223) theaters; PTA: $2,848; Cumulative: $151,650,000

5. Immaculate (Neon) Week 2; Last weekend #4

$3,265,000 (-39%) in 2,362 (+8) theaters; PTA: $1,383; Cumulative: $11,128,000

6. Arthur the King (Lionsgate) Week 3; Last weekend #54;

$2,400,000 (-44%) in 2,525 (-478) theaters; PTA: $950; Cumulative: $19,066,000

7. Late Night with the Devil (IFC) Week 2; Last weekend #6

$2,206,000 (-22%) in 1,442 (+408) theaters; PTA: $1,530; Cumulative: $6,294,000

8.Tillu Square (Prathyangira) NEW – Est. budget: $28 million

$1,836,000 in 450 theaters; PTA: $4,080; Cumulative: $1,836,000

9. Crew (FunAsia) NEW – Est. budget: $24 million

$1,700,000 in 486 theaters; PTA: $3,498; Cumulative: $1,700,000

10. Imaginary (Lionsgate) Week 4; Last weekend #7

$1,400,000 (-50%) in 1,956 (-557) theaters; PTA: $716; Cumulative: $26,235,000

Other specialized titles

Films (limited, expansions of limited, as well as awards-oriented releases) are listed by week in release, starting with those opened this week; after the first three weeks, only films with grosses over $5,000 are listed.Metacritic scores and initial film festivals recorded.

Wicked Little Letters (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW – Metacritic: 55; Festivals include: Toronto 2023

$87,000 in 5 theaters; PTA: $17,400

La Chimera (Neon) NEW – Metacritic: 89; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, New York 2023

$45,037 in 3 theaters; PTA: $15,012

In the Land of Saints and Sinners (Goldwyn) NEW – Metacritic: 59; Festivals include: Venice 2023

$1,056,000 in 896 theaters; PTA: $1,179

Asphalt City (Roadhouse) NEW – Metacritic: 47; Festivals include: Cannes 2023

$130,600 in 298 theaters; PTA: $438

Le Samourai (Janus) NEW (Reissue)

$15,788 in 1 theater; PTA: $15,788

Carol Doda Topless at the Condor (Picturehouse) Week 2

$31,438 in 24 (+20) theaters; PTA: $1,310; Cumulative: $72,650

Femme (Utopia) Week 2

$24,030 in 4 (+3) theaters; PTA: $6,008; Cumulative: $45,795

Limbo (Music Box) Week 2

$7,611 in 7 (+5) theaters; PTA: $1,087; Cumulative: $18,305

Exhuma (WellGo USA) Week 3

$(est.) 400,000 in 75 (+8) theaters; PTA: $5,333; Cumulative: $1,354,000

One Life (Bleecker Street) Week 3

$474,410 in 578 (-431) theaters; Cumulative: $4,521,000

The American Society of Magical Negroes (Focus) Week 3

$54,000 in 152 (-1,001) theaters; Cumulative: $2,449,000

Love Lies Bleeding (A24) Week 4

$642,734 in 858 (-970) theaters; Cumulative: $7,190,000

Cabrini (Angel) Week 4

$1,038,000 in 1,345 (-420) theaters; Cumulative: $18,142,000

YOLO (Sony) Week 4

$62,000 in 71 (no change) theaters; Cumulative: $1,881,000

Problemista (A24) Week 5

$366,803 in 379 (+142) theaters; Cumulative: $1,900,000

Ennio (Music Box) Week 8

$13,091 in 20 (+17) theaters; Cumulative: $50,269

The Taste of Things (IFC) Week 8

$25,569 in 41 (-29) theaters; Cumulative: $2,630,000

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