Ghostbusters: Degree of Success? More Installments in Future?

Sony’s all-female Ghostbusters opened in the No. 2 spot at the North American box office over the weekend with $46 million from 3,962 theaters, a lukewarm start considering the movie’s sizeable budget.

The decision to bring on Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, and pair them with director Paul Feig, turned out to be a shrewd one.

The cast was the third-most cited reason that people went to the movie, according to comScore’s survey of ticket buyers.

The backlash around the film, which began months ago, likely spurred audiences’ curiosity to see the all-female reboot.


The Secret Life of Pets easily stayed No. 1 in its second weekend even as it declined 52 percent to $50.6 million from 4,381 locations for a total of $203.2 million through Sunday. Overseas, the Illumination Entertainment and Universal release has earned $50.8 million from its first nine markets for an early global total of $254 million.

Animated offerings continued to rule all the way around. Fox’s Ice Age: Collision Course topped the foreign box-office chart with $53.5 million from 51 markets, putting its international total at $127 million ahead of its domestic launch on July 22. New openings included France ($7.2 million) and the U.K. ($5.2 million).

And Finding Dory has become the top-grossing animated title of all time in North America with $445.5 million through Sunday (Shrek 2 was the previous champ with $444.2 million), not accounting for inflation. For the weekend, Finding Dory placed No. 4 with $11 million, while overseas it earned another $36.5 million from 45 countries for a worldwide cume of $721.8 million for Pixar and Disney.

Directed by Paul Feig, Ghostbusters hopes to relaunch the storied franchise, though the movie’s early box-office performance doesn’t make that a guarantee. Sony executives are already promising further installments, noting that the pic scored the best opening for a live-action comedy since Pitch Perfect 2 sang to $69.2 million in May 2015.

But Ghostbusters, with a net production budget of $144 million (tax rebates and incentives brought it down from $154 million), cost far more than many of the movies it’s being compared to and will need strong legs in the U.S. and overseas to land in the black for Sony and partner Village Roadshow Pictures.

Internationally, Ghostbusters opened to $19.1 million from its first raft of countries for a global debut of $63.7 million. Among major markets, it placed No. 1 in the U.K. with $6.1 million and No. 1 in Australia with $3.7 million. The film placed No. 3 in Brazil with $2.2 million.

“We’re ecstatic with this opening. We have successfully restarted an important brand,” said Sony’s worldwide marketing and distribution president Josh Greenstein, adding that it’s especially a win considering the controversy surrounding the film. “We have lots of room to run in the coming weeks as the big comedy in the marketplace.”

For the better part of two years, Feig and Sony have come under constant attack from vocal opponents of the decision to make the leads all female. In the classic 1984 and 1989 movies, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Harold Ramis famously starred as the Ghostbusters. This time out, the ghoul chasers are played by Melisa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.

Not surprisingly, Ghostbusters skewed heavily female (57 percent) for an all-audience tentpole, while 63 percent of ticket buyers were over the age of 25. Overall, moviegoers gave the film a B+ CinemaScore, although younger consumers liked it more, with those under the age of 18 giving it an A-.

Ghostbusters marks the biggest domestic opening ever for Feig and McCarthy, his frequent collaborator, but it’s also their first franchise tentpole. Their previous best was 2013’s The Heat, which debuted to $39.1 million and cost far less to make.

The reboot — which also features Chris Hemsworth and boasts a number of cameos by stars of the original films, including Murray — is once again set in Manhattan, where a ghost invasion forces a couple of paranormal enthusiasts, a nuclear engineer and subway worker to band together to stop the threat. Ivan Reitman, who directed the original pics, produced the update with former Sony studio chief Amy Pascal.

Heading into the weekend, Sony, trying to manage expectations, predicted a domestic debut of $38 million-$40 million. But others thought the film could cross $50 million, thanks to generally strong reviews (73 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and an aggressive marketing campaign. NRG, the industry’s leading tracking service, even had it debuting to $54 million.

The weekend’s only other new nationwide release was The Infiltrator, starring Bryan Cranston as a federal agent who infiltrates Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel, although it had a relatively small footprint (1,601 theaters).

From Broad Green Pictures and directed by Brad Furman, the adult drama earned a better-than-expected $6.7 million over the course of its five-day debut (it opened Wednesday) after nabbing an A- CinemaScore. John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Benjamin Bratt, Yul Vazquez and Amy Ryan also star in the movie, which placed No. 8.

There were a flurry of new offerings at the specialty box office, including Woody Allen’s Cafe Society, which nabbed the top location average of the year to date for any film. The period romantic comedy, which stars Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, earned $361,000 from five theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a screen average of $71,000.

For Stewart, Cafe Society will no doubt lessen the sting of Equals, which bombed in its limited theatrical opening after debuting on DirecTV in late May. Starring Stewart opposite Nicholas Hoult, Drake Doremus’ sci-fi love story earned $8,000-$9,000 from three theaters in New York and Canada. A24 partnered with DirecTV in acquiring rights to Equals.

Conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza’s Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party scored the top location average of the year to date for a political documentary in opening to $77,500 from three cinemas in Texas for an average $25,833.