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Box Office: ‘Godzilla x Kong’ Staying on Top, ‘Monkey Man’ Swings Into Second and ‘The First Omen’ Gets Crossed Up

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It’s a primate face-off at the box office this weekend, plus some old-fashioned Antichrist horror on the side. Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros.’ “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” looks to stick on top of domestic charts, holding off the opening weekend bows of Universal’s beat-em-up “Monkey Man” and 20th Century Studios’ horror revival “The First Omen.”

That kaiju victory lap probably has less to do with the staying power of “The New Empire” than the strength of its competition though. The blockbuster monster mash earned $8.5 million on Friday, down a steep 77% from its opening day a week ago. “The New Empire” could be eyeing a drop north of 60% across the three-day frame — not a superlatively large decline from a blockbuster’s opening weekend, but still a pretty sizable one. It puts in perspective the impressively slim 44% drop that fellow Legendary production “Dune: Part Two” faced in its sophomore outing.

Still, “The New Empire” has already surpassed a $100 million domestic total — something only two other movies have done so far this year. And the movie got off to a smashing start overseas, where both Godzilla and King Kong have traditionally drawn crowds. With a $150 million production budget, the film is still meeting expectations for Legendary and Warner Bros., but things are perhaps coming back to Earth a bit after a bigger-than-expected opening weekend.

Eyeing second is Universal’s “Monkey Man,” which the studio picked up after Netflix dropped an initial deal with the production. The action movie, starring and helmed by Dev Patel in his feature directorial debut, nabbed $4.2 million on Friday and previews. It is now looking at a $10.5 million debut from 3,029 locations — a couple steps behind the $12 million bow that projections had it at before the weekend. The film scored strong reviews following a buzzy premiere at the SXSW Festival in March. Audiences that showed up early are leaning positive, as indicated by the B+ grade determined by survey firm Cinema Score.

It’s not a bad place to start for “Monkey Man,” which Universal acquired for $10 million with some help from Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions. The film tells an action-packed revenge story of a boxer in India that infiltrates his city’s underground criminal empire.

Landing a less auspicious debut is “The First Omen,” which earned $3.2 million across Friday and preview screenings. Projections heading into the weekend had pegged an opening north of $14 million; now, it seems the release from 20th Century Studios (owned by Disney) will be lucky to even hit $10 million.

It’s a rare underperformance for horror at the box office, though it might have something to do with attempting to entice audiences with a decades-old property. Another revival of a legacy franchise from the ’70s, “The Exorcist: Believer,” also came in behind expectations last October.

Of course, 20th Century Studios didn’t spend $400 million on “The Omen” rights and tout plans for a new trilogy, like how Universal did with “The Exorcist.” Instead, “First Omen” is modestly budgeted at $30 million (though that’s still somewhat steep for horror — oftentimes a low-risk, high-reward gamble for studios). The film also pivoted from an intended Hulu debut to theatrical after last year’s strikes created a scarcity in features for exhibitors.

“First Omen” earned positive nods from critics, though audiences are less-enthused, turning in a C grade on Cinema Score. Even if it can’t find its way out of the red in the weeks ahead, it’s not going to amount to a staggering financial burden and going to theaters before streaming provides revenue that it wasn’t accounting for in the first place.

Serving as a prequel to Richard Donner’s 1976 original “The Omen,” this new sixth entry follows an American working at a Roman church who unravels an unholy conspiracy. Nell Tiger Free, Sônia Braga, Ralph Ineson, Bill Nighy and Tawfeek Barhom star, while Arkasha Stevenson directs.

Sony’s “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” looks to land in fourth place, facing a 42% drop in its third weekend. The supernatural comedy sequel will get past an $85 million domestic tally this weekend, along with $40 million internationally — not a figure that would seem to justify a $100 million production budget, plus marketing costs and accounting for exhibitor’s take of ticket sales. The film’s predecessor, franchise revival “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” notched $102 million after 17 days of North American release in 2021, a pace that “Frozen Empire” is trailing well behind.

Universal’s “Kung Fu Panda 4” looks to round out the top five, projecting another modest drop this weekend (23%) for another $8 million. In the coming days, it will surpass the $165.2 million domestic sum of 2010’s “Kung Fu Panda 2” to become the second-highest grossing title of the DreamWorks Animation franchise in North America.