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Did ‘Ghostbusters’ Open at the Box Office? Or Disappoint?

In Hollywood, a movie either "opens" —scores well at the box office on its opening weekend—or it's a disappointment in relation to cost, one way or the other.

"Ghostbusters"

“Ghostbusters”

Columbia Pictures

Read the reports on the weekend box office and you might wind up scratching your head about the performance of Sony’s female “Ghostbusters” reboot.

Did it “fail” to unseat “The Secret Life of Pets” in first place? Yes. But opening at number one doesn’t necessarily guarantee a hit.

Was it strong enough to jump-start a long-dormant possible franchise? Sony is weaker in franchise depth than other studios and needed this Amy Pascal-produced flick to thrive. According to distribution chief Rory Bruer, the likelihood of a sequel is strong.

Box office success is measured by cost vs. return, expectations vs. reality, and last year’s record numbers vs. a weak summer 2016. Few summer 2016 releases grabbed more advance attention. During this feast-or-famine season, the mid-range initial “Ghostbusters” performance is far from great, but mainly positive. Word of mouth could drive more attendance.

This is a glass half-full/half-empty story. We don’t know the foreign take yet. “Ghostbusters” is the prototypical summer 2016 non-animated film: risky due to expense, compelling to some audiences, but a mixed bag. And once again, measuring whether it is a success comes down to its $144 million budget plus some $100 million-plus in worldwide marketing costs.

Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones in Ghostbusters

“Ghostbusters”

Shutterstock

The budget aside, it’s the biggest live action comedy opening since “22 Jump Street” last summer; the biggest opening of the already successful Melissa McCarthy’s career; the best opening for director Paul Feig, whose hits include “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat” and “Spy.” And it’s the best opening weekend this summer for a film neither animated nor Marvel-based, including several films at its cost or higher. Its the third best opening among similar films all year, with only “Batman v Superman” and “The Jungle Book” beating its figures.

And this comes in the face of relentless negative anti-women buzz, marketing miscues and an early badly-received trailer. With the trajectory of the summer, this was positioned to be the latest in a series of obvious flops (“The Huntsman: Winter Warrior,” “Warcraft,” and “The BFG” among them) or seriously under-performing films (“Independence Day: Resurgence”) causing concern in the industry.

Ghostbusters” had to deal with inflated projections for a sequel, even 32 years later. In context, this summer’s original comedy “Central Intelligence” with Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson is a clear success, but it opened to $11 million less. Anyone remember “Neighbors 2”? It opened only half as well. “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” won’t gross its entire run what “Ghostbusters” achieved on its first weekend. No one is calling those studios crazy for making these male-centered comedies, nor did any invoke any ripple of backlash.

The problem is that no comedy franchise of late has risen to the level of “The Hangover” or “Men in Black” films. Comedy has become much more of a niche item. And worse, it is a genre less easy to make for the one-size-fits-all international market (China predictably refused to book it because of the censors’ long-held aversion to ghost stories). So backing it with such a high price-tag was a risk, irrespective of who starred in it.

Rebooting the movie with women—McCarthy is a huge comedy draw— followed the “let’s take the familiar but add something original formula” that has been working of late. This was a brilliant solution to the decades-long stalled remake. Try to imagine a redo with, say, Bradley Cooper, Jonah Hill and Kevin Hart, who as talented as they are, would have borne tricky comparisons to Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. At least McCarthy, Kristin Wiig and Leslie Jones start off as sufficiently different to be distinctive and not replicants.

So we have a respectable but not sensational opening number for an entertaining mainstream summer comedy. Two unknown X factors will determine its success: how it holds at home, and how it plays overseas. On the first: McCarthy’s films have mostly played in the 3.5 to 4X multiple totals. At the low end (not guaranteed), that would mean $161 million at home.

So far so good. But foreign is tricky. Only one of McCarthy’s films (Wiig and the others are non-factors overseas) has taken in more foreign than domestic, and most far less, even “The Heat” with movie star Sandra Bullock. On the positive side, so far its limited foreign release in three territories has yielded positive results, with the U.K. and Australia (among the likely more favorable territories) coming in at #1.

Also likely in Sony’s calculations is the “Men in Black” films, which in an era when foreign wasn’t nearly so strong, did better overseas, even with African-American star Will Smith (after his star-making role in “Independence Day,” a world-wide smash far beyond McCarthy’s exposure).,Sony might have done better rebooting the movie as an animated film. That sort of original flavor for a known product might have played.

But again, on its own terms—reviews were largely positive, 60% on Metacritic against 67% for the original— other than budget, this is an idea that had appeal and did better than many other supposed tentpoles this season.

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Comments

Michael Summerset

From what I’m hearing, those who have seen the film are calling it okay. But a big budget movie should be better than okay.

It does appear that it could break even with it’s production budget, but it may not cover the advertising budget. These are the films which finance the studio for the year and give them money to produce smaller films. So even if the film makes it’s money back, it could still hurt Sony.

What bothered fans so much was a sense of corporate tampering by those who may not have even seen or liked the original films. The Sony leaks helped create concern among fans that it was going to be bad. That’s why there was so much negativity before the film came out.

K

Actually, this movie did pretty good, considering it was up against more than your average blockbuster. This one opened ABOVE 40 million despite crybaby butt-hurt men criticizing it left and right and urging it to fail, fail, fail.
We’ll see how it holds on, but I’d say this in itself is pretty impressive. And it is historic, because this is the first film I can recall that goes all-out all female in a predominantly masculine franchise.

    Loop

    This film has failed because of feminist like you.

    jehu

    Wow – think before writing. I as a male shun this film as it is not marketed towards males. I do not want to see unfunny women pander over an attractive male for 2 hours. There was no effort to court male viewers, and if anything, potential male viewers were offset by Feig’s terrible comments. Very poor job on marketing, I will not be seeing this film.

      Nikita Jones

      Alright I know it’s pointless to try and argue on the internet but the “I’m not seeing it because it isn’t marketed towards males” comment is utterly ridiculous. How sad for you to feel neglected by a big-budget movie for the first time in your life. Wow. Do you not understand this is how women feel all the time? And yet we watch these male-driven comedies. Market-wise women make up a near equal amount of the audiences of those kinds of films. Perhaps this is because fully emotionally developed human beings don’t *need* a movie to pander to them in order to enjoy it. I for one, quite enjoy the Hangover franchise despite the fact that there is pretty much nothing in there *for* women. Grow up.

        Charlie

        The problem is not that it doesn’t pander to men, but more that it seems to actively hate on men. If the gender roles had been swapped between Erin and Kevin, feminists would be up in arms about the misogyny of this film, but because it’s a man being sexually harassed it’s “comedy.”

        Markus

        @NIKITA JONES …. the way you replied is the reason why I didn’t go watch this movie. You seem to think you have some sort of moral authority over others and are justified in talking down to men to guilt-trip them into seeing a movie you personally like. Men HAVE to like this movie otherwise they are emotionally undeveloped, really? How would you like it if people would talk down to women like that? You think you can just shit on men like that and they sheepishly follow your aggressive orders to go watch this movie?

        The director and cast are the same type of people as you. It seems all the wrong people like this movie. People are tired of preachy and aggressive people like this, that’s why this movie is a box office failure.

        You can’t just bully people into liking something just because you feel like a victim. That’s not how it’s going to work anymore in 2016 and the future. Try being respectful towards people, maybe people will give you a chance.

    Markus

    “despite crybaby butt-hurt men criticizing it” …… Jeez, could you tone it down a bit with the generic remarks at men? I did not went to see this movie for this exact reason. It seems like all the people who love this movie have a huge problem with men. The director and cast have made similar statements about men. Tell me, why would I as a man want to see a movie made by such people? I rather avoid this like the plague.

    Jesse

    Paul is that you?

AC

The Sony positive spin is in full effect. 46 million is a very mediocre opening for a 144 million dollar movie. Comparing it to Neighbors 2 and Mike and Dave is pointless when both those movies only had a budget of around 30 million. The Pitch Perfect 2 comparison is also grasping with it being a recent sequel and having a 29 million dollar budget. The success of Pitch Perfect 2 shows this lack of success so far really has nothing to do with the all female cast but more with America’s appetite for summer comedy in recent years. A blockbuster budget comedy for Sony was too risky and it looks like they are going to pay for it with MAYBE breaking even. Sony thought that rebooting a franchise would lower the risk but that’s not the case when you target new audiences and ignore a large existent fan base. I was very disappointed with the direction they went with Ghostbusters going for a more light hearted ‘horror’ comedy instead of a darker feel. I think that would have been a more appealing reintroduction to the franchise. More appealing to me at least.

Rastus

It did pretty much as well as the Independence Day reboot, with a similar budget. Yet Independence Day has been labled a “flop” and a “bomb,” while industry hacks are making excuses for Ghostbusters.

CHris

This movie is just awful. Just awful. Hollywood just doesn’t know when to leave a classic alone.

Griglager

Biggest live action comedy since 21 jump street…

No love for Deadpool,huh?

jessie

As far as i’m concerned the spin that this isn’t sexist (but really is) is nauseating. Shooting a ghost between the legs and the dumb male secretary(i can just hear feminist’s laughing) contributes to women’s low opinion of men. now, that may not mean anything to someone who makes 7 figures but for the rest of us working stiffs it’s INSULTING. We can’t just pick up and get away most of us are stuck wit em. and this trash doesn’t help. This isn’t about ghostbusters. this has been building for awhile. It’s a combination of true fans wait8ing for part 3 and murray sweet talking us to death and than a sudden 180 degree turn by the studio. it’s just too much to take. it’s very disappointing. and feig’s comments didn’t help i can tell you that.

Wilson

For the record, Neighbors 2 and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates are actually a lot more female-centric than they look.

disagreeablesob

Was the all-female reboot of GHOSTBUSTERS made because somebody assumed female fans weren’t being allowed by male fans to feel like the original film also belonged to them?Because if that’s the case,then they’re complete morons.I’ve seen women in full GHOSTBUSTERS costumes,including the proton packs,which should surprise no one.Guys tend to be a lot less fanatical about keeping their geek culture for themselves than any of these feminist/P.C. types think.The irony is the new GHOSTBUSTERS,because of all the confrontational “Girls can do it too”-ism,the displays of arrogance by Paul Feig in blowing off any legitimate criticism as more sexist fanboy trolling,and the man-bashing it came with,won’t be embraced by many males because it obviously isn’t meant to be “their” film.When the original 1984 film came out,it was sold as just that,a film,not a statement on gender-politics.By making it all about “women vs men”,they effectively guaranteed men and boys would stay away in droves,rather than pay $15.00 to see their sex bashed and made to look useless or ridiculous,which is what the males in these woman-as-hero movies always do.Also ironic,since the woman-as-pretty-but-useless-baggage type of films feminists claim action/adventure movies were only seemed to exist;but I suppose when your only frame of reference is wholly solipstsicm,when you think everything is about you,of course you’ll see sexism where none exists.The movies where the male hero rescued the heroine from danger,not because she was helpless but because protecting her fulfilled his sense of self,wasn’t meant to be a source of feminine resentment or humiliation.It had nothing to do with women’s own sense of self,the movies heroines weren’t meant for them to see as role models any more than the male heroes were.They were meant to instill a positive sense of what being male meant in them.Women had plenty of their own cinema heroes,women who were clever,brave,courageous,resourceful,and self-sacrificing,where women were the heroes.You never heard of men complaining about the roles of men in those because men got they were women’s movies.But with the typical pettiness and mean-spiritedness of modern feminism,males are inevitably depicted as either nebbishes,monsters or pretty-but-dumb in movies that are woman-centric,Which is how the only prominent males characters in the new GHOSTBUSTERS are depicted.And unlike the old films,it’s understood these characters are meant to depict all males,feminists have made it plain they are because they’re every male in any feminist story.Male audiences not embracing GHOSTBUSTERS wasn’t seen as a concern;FROZEN made tons of money with a primarily female audience,so why not GHOSTBUSTERS?Well,now they know why.

disagreeablesob

Correction-The line written as “They were meant to instill a positive sense of what being male meant in them” should read “They were meant to instill in boys and young men a positive sense of what being male meant.”

Lauren

So when did IndieWire go from this even handed examination of Ghostbusters box office vs budget to declaring it a flop like every other news outlet?

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