Twenty-seven years in the waiting, Sony finally brings its next rendition of Ghostbusters to the big screen. Friday’s bow comes after a knock-down, drag-out promotional fight with male naysayers online who’ve thumbed their noses over the studio’s novel idea to reboot the 1980s special-effects comedy with a female cast led by Melissa McCarthy and Saturday Night Live players Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, and directed by Bridesmaids’ Paul Feig.
Ghostbusters is a huge gamble for the franchise-starved Sony, which is hoping in some form or fashion that the reboot works for a new generation. The Culver City-based studio has spent an estimated $144M after rebates and tax credits, and about the same on P&A. Village Roadshow is co-producing.
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Since the trailer debuted in early March to less than raves, it promptly registered as the most disliked trailer in YouTube’s history. However since the film’s premiere on Saturday, Ghostbusters has gained a tremendous amount of good will, with Rotten Tomatoes currently scoring a 77% fresh from 78 reviews (and climbing), propped by such female film critics as the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis, who fervently declared: “Girls rule, women are funny, get over it. … Part of what makes Ghostbusters enjoyable is that it allows women to be as simply and uncomplicatedly funny as men.”
This has prompted some tracking firms to change up their opening-weekend projections for Ghostbusters from $40M to $48M with a shot at $50M at an estimated 3,950 theaters along with Imax and 3D. Previews start Thursday. Ghostbusters is tracking strong overall with women over 25, and Sony is banking on that. In first choice, older males are highest, followed by older females. Unaided fairly close with all quadrants but highest by older females followed by older males.
A $40M-ish launch is not ideal for a film of this magnitude, and furthermore, many are expecting Ghostbusters to be whipped by the second weekend of Illumination Entertainment/Universal’s The Secret Life of Pets. That toon, which bowed at No. 1 this past weekend, is looking at $50M-$60M, a 43% to 52% decline. Should Ghostbusters open north of $39.1M — which is what Feig and McCarthy’s The Heat bowed with in 2013 — it would be the director and leading lady’s best opening ever.
Typically a film the size of Ghostbusters should open in the neighborhood of $60M, but as one rival distribution chief reminded me this morning: “This is all about Sony finding another franchise. If this picture opens and holds and plays and plays but loses a bit of money, and Sony spawns another franchise, then that’s good.”
Between the original 1984 film and the 1989 sequel, the Ghostbusters franchise in its original dollars counts $510.6M in worldwide grosses. Many critics in 1984 marveled how the film directed by Ivan Reitman (who serves as an EP on the reboot) and written by its co-stars Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd was a breakthrough for special-effects movies in its combination of wry, sarcastic comedy. Since Ghostbusters II, Sony had chased after Bill Murray to reprise his role with two scripts, one by Lee Eisenberg, Gene Stupnitsky, Reitman, Ramis and Aykroyd and another draft by Ethan Coen, Reitman and Aykroyd. Reitman told Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. back in March 2014, “When Bill finally — well, he never actually said no, but he never said yes, so there was no way to make that film.” At that point, Reitman was looking to push the film forward in the wake of Ramis’ death. By August of that year, Feig boarded with his femme spin on the project. In October, Feig reteamed with his Heat co-scribe Katie Dippold. At the end of January last year, it was announced that McCarthy, Wiig, McKinnon and Jones are our new Ghostbusters.
Opening wide Wednesday is Broad Green’s The Infiltrator starring Bryan Cranston as a U.S. customs official who uncovers a money laundering scheme involving Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Industry projections have the Brad Furman-helmed crime drama making $5M-$8M at 1,600 theaters. There are a handful of previews tonight. Males ages 30-50 are the target audience here along with Hispanic moviegoers. The Rotten Tomatoes score currently is 69% fresh.
Also opening this weekend is Lionsgate’s Amazon release Cafe Society from Woody Allen. The Hollywood period comedy starring Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively, Jesse Eisenberg and Steve Carell will play in five Los Angeles and New York locations with an eye at $50K per theater. The film opened the Cannes Film Festival, and while it didn’t dazzle in its reviews, has climbed to a 76% fresh Rotten Tomatoes score from 42 reviews. Amazon acquired Cafe Society back in February for eight figures. Art house denizens also can get their double-fill of Stewart as she also stars in A24’s sci-fi romance Equals, which the label acquired with DirecTV out of last year’s Toronto International Film Festival .
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