“Kung Fu Panda 4” (Universal) and “Dune: Part Two” (Warner Bros.) came in a close #1-#2 this weekend, with the DreamWorks Animation title edging out Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi adaptation by just under $1 million ($30 million to $29.1 million). The two films, in their second and third weekends respectively, are positioned to exceed their most optimistic pre-release projections.

Going against last year’s trend of disappointing franchise results, the two sequels made up about two thirds of the weekend’s $90 million total. With little help from other new releases, this fell just short of last year’s $92 million. It reduced the year’s deficit to nine percent.

“Dune” joined WB’s “Wonka” as the second film to pass the domestic $200 million total since last July. By next weekend, it will surpass that film’s $218 million gross.

How high could it go? Pre-release, the most optimistic hopes were perhaps $250 million — $150 million more than the first “Dune,” which faced late-impact Covid issues and same-day HBO Max play. It should easily surpass that; its 37 percent fall this weekend suggests a lengthy run ahead. It could reach $300 million domestic; worldwide, it is just shy of $500 million.

At best, “Panda” was expected to hit $175 million. With weeks of spring vacation time ahead (varying by region) and no other family films, $200 million is possible.

Initial response to these two sequels is encouraging with “Ghostbuster: Frozen Empire” (Sony) this week and “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” (WB) the next. Of course, that’s no guarantee either will replicate this success.

Timothée Chalamet has achieved something that no actor has done in a long time. With “Wonka” and “Dune 2,” he has the lead the the top two domestic grossing films over the last eight months.

That is, to put it mildly, rare. Checking back, we can’t find anyone who can claim that (as a lead in a live-action film, as opposed to ensemble Marvel casts) to accomplish that since John Travolta did it for “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease” in the late 1970s.

Even with caveats (for “Dune” in particular he’s part of a larger cast, against limited competition), that’s an impressive achievement. Movie stars who deliver box office are in short supply.

Arthur the King
‘Arthur the King’©Lions Gate/Courtesy Everett Collection

Mark Wahlberg was the big draw for “Arthur the King” (Lionsgate) a family-friendly dog race story that took the bronze this week. At $7.5 million, it fell a bit short of its modest hopes. With an A Cinemascore and a reported $19 million budget, this should be another modest success for the distributor even if it doesn’t add much to theaters’ bottom line.

“Love Lies Bleeding” (A24) led three minor newcomers to the Top 10. The second-week expansion for Kristin Stewart’s female bodybuilder noir took sixth place with just under $2.5 million in 1,362 theaters.

“One Life” (Bleecker Street), with Anthony Hopkins as a real-life London broker who saved hundred of Jewish children during World War II, placed eighth with $1.7 million in 983 theaters. The Sundance-premiered satire “The American Society of Magical Negroes” (Focus), not helped by mediocre reviews, was #9 with $1.25 million in 1,147 theaters.

Most Oscar-winning films were available this weekend, but they grossed a combined less than $1 million as many did well on home platforms. “Oppenheimer” (Universal) was best with $301,000, but its per-theater average was $443.

The second weekend of “Cabrini” (Angel) from the director of “Sound of Freedom” failed to repeat the early film’s sleeper success, despite its A Cinemascore. It fell 61 percent to fifth place with $2.8 million.

Ryuichi Sakamoto in "Opus"
‘Ryuichi Sakamoto: Opus’Janus Films

Best among new specialized releases was “Exhuma” (Well Go USA) from Korea, with $65,500 in three theaters. It widens next week. Two New York single theater debuts showed promise. “Ryuichi Sakamoto: Opus” (Janus) grossed $11,193, while the revival of Claude Sautet’s gangster classic “Classe Tous Risques” (Rialto) did $9,500.

A24’s “Problemista” continued its slow expansion with $235,000 in 61 theaters and $690,000 so far.

The Top 10

1. Kung Fu Panda 4 (Universal) NEW – Week 2; Last weekend #1

$30,000,000 (-48%) in 4,067 (+32) theaters; PTA (per theater average): $7,376; Cumulative: $107,740,000

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

$29,100,000 (-37%) in 3,847 (-227) theaters; PTA: $7,564; Cumulative: $205,318,000

3. Arthur the King (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 55; Est. budget: $19 million

$7,500,000 in 2,960 theaters; PTA: $2,498; Cumulative: $7,500,000

4. Imaginary (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #3

$5,600,000 (-44%) in 3,118 (no change) theaters; PTA: $1,796; Cumulative: $19,082,000

5. Cabrini (Angel) Week 2; Last weekend #4

$2,814,000 (-61%) in 2,850 (+10) theaters; PTA: $987; Cumulative: $13,003,000

6. Love Lies Bleeding (A24) Week 2; Last weekend #21

$2,486,000 (+1,549%) in 1,362 (+1,357) theaters; PTA: $1,825; Cumulative: $2,762,000

7. Bob Marley: One Love (Paramount) Week 5; Last weekend #5

$2,300,000 (-44%) in 2,272 (-492) theaters; PTA: $1,012; Cumulative: $93,365,000

8. One Life (Bleecker Street) NEW – Metacritic: 69

$1,709,000 in 983 theaters; PTA: $1,736; Cumulative: $1,709,000

9. The American Society of Magical Negroes (Focus) NEW – Metacritic: 54

$1,250,000 in 1,147 theaters; PTA: $1,090; Cumulative: $1,250,000

10. Ordinary Angels (Lionsgate) Week 3; Last weekend #3

$1,000,000 (-50%) in 1,753 (-570) theaters; PTA: $569; Cumulative: $18,073,000

Other specialized and award-contending 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.

Exhuma (WellGo USA) NEW

$65,500 in 3 theaters; PTA: $21,833

Snack Shack (Republic) NEW – Metacritic: 64

$300,000 in 437 theaters; PTA: $686

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Opus (Janus) NEW – Metacritic: 94; Festivals include: Venice, New York 2023

$11,293 in 1 theater; PTA: $11,293

Remembering Gene Wilder (Kino Lorber) NEW – Festivals include: Newport Beach 2023

$3,007 in 1 theater; PTA: $3,007

Classe Tous Risques (Rialto) REISSUE

$9,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $9,500

YOLO (Sony) Week 2

$305,000 in 200 (no change) theaters; PTA: $1,525; Cumulative: $1,505,000

Accidental Texan (Roadside Attractions) Week 2 134

$42,485 in theaters; PTA: $386; Cumulative: $246,438

Problemista (A24) Week 3

$234,928 in 61 (+41) theaters; PTA: $3,729; Cumulative: $690,934

Perfect Days (Neon) Week 5; also on VOD

$144,226 in 44 (-197) theaters; Cumulative: $3,020,000

The Taste of Things (IFC) Week 5

$51,019 in 83 (-47) theaters; Cumulative: $2,513,000

The Zone of Interest (A24) Week 15; also on PVOD 534

$127,311 in 212 (-322) theaters; Cumulative: $8,377,000

Poor Things (Searchlight) Week 14; also on PVOD and Hulu

$221,000 in 840 (+140) theaters; Cumulative: $34,374,000

Oppenheimer (Universal) Week 34; also on VOD and Peacock

$302,000 in 1,323 (+681) theaters; Cumulative: $329,700,000

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