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‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ $44 Million Opening Box Office Sets Up Sony to End the Year as a Star

The Sony sequel beat all expectations to open at #1, while Best Actor prospect Will Smith as "King Richard" opened to #4 with $5.7 million.

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife”


For the second time in two months, a Sony Pictures sequel confounded projections on opening weekend. Like “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” before it, which bested all other 2021 titles with an initial $90 million return, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” opened to an estimated $44 million; prior estimates ranged from $27 million-$40 million.

Sony, the only top studio to lack a streaming outlet, is having a great last quarter that will be capped by the hotly anticipated “Spider-Man: No Way Home” — a good bet to be the top-grossing release of 2021. Unlike its Disney MCU competitors, “Carnage” and “Afterlife” are veritable bargains; they cost less than $100 million each.

With these franchise installments, Sony seems to have found a sweet spot. “Afterlife” rebounded from the perceived failure of its 2016 female-reworking predecessor (it was the highest grossing comedy of its year, with a slightly better opening than “Afterlife.”) The problem lay in its $144 million budget, nearly double that of “Afterlife.”

Here, Jason Reitman took over the directorial reins held by his father Ivan for the original “Ghostbusters” and its first sequel. The film climbed about 30 percent above the Friday gross (excluding previews), suggesting strength in both word of mouth and matinees. That’s encouraging going into Thanksgiving, when well-received films can hold well into the next weekend.

For films that were not “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” this was not a good weekend. While the 2019 comparisons are skewed  — nothing was going to compare to the $130 million opening weekend for “Frozen 2” — other debuts underperformed, as did holdovers. “Afterlife” will make up just over half of the $83 million total box office, which represents 40 percent of 2019. That was then; this is now. The four week running average to 2019 fell to 62 percent.

Warner Bros.

The week’s other wide opening could be a frontrunner for Oscar’s Best Picture. “King Richard,” which represents the next-to-last of Warner Bros.’ same-day HBO Max releases, opened to $5.7 million. Another Best Picture candidate, Netflix’s “The Power of the Dog,” opened in 40 theaters two weeks ahead of its streaming debut. (We estimate it grossed around $125,000.) Finally, there’s “Belfast,” which dropped 47 percent in its second week.

“King Richard” appealed to older audiences (Warners reports that 80 percent were over 25) and it’s possible the streaming alternative took more than a small chunk of business. That’s guesswork, of course, but even if the box office doubled it would represent an ordinary result. Two years ago this same weekend, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” also with elevated awards hopes, grossed $13 million with a similar theater count. It was considered a disappointment that dimmed its award prospects.

For “King Richard,” all is not lost: There’s the holiday, an A Cinemascore, and mostly positive social media response. (There’s also backlash centered on a film that celebrates the Williams sisters’ success through the prism of their father.) Another factor in play: This may be a year in which box office loses some of its awards influence. “Belfast,” which goes to over 1,000 theaters next weekend, will not grab headlines with its gross; nor will Jane Campion’s film, which will mostly be seen at Netflix. The most complete streaming outlet anywhere is the one for Academy members, which encourages voters to see films at home. They know better than anyone that theater tickets are no longer the sole arbiter of momentum.

With competition for family audiences from “Afterlife,” Paramount’s “Clifford the Big Red Dog” dropped 51 percent in its second weekend. The biggest top 10 drop belonged to “Eternals,” which plunged 60 percent in its third weekend. It grossed under $11 million and will likely end its run around $160 million. Other than “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” other holdovers dropped less than 50 percent.

C'mon C'mon

“C’mon C’mon”

Tobin Yelland

A24 reported $125,000 gross for Mike Mills’ “C’mon C’mon” in five New York/Los Angeles theaters. Expansion into top markets will test whether this initial result can be seen elsewhere.

Early Covid-days documentary “The First Wave” (Neon), from Participant, opened at 11 theaters with a grassroots campaign and a decent initial result of $68,115. Two other new titles were “The Battle at Lake Changjin” (CMC), which is the year’s top grosser worldwide (nearing $900 million, mostly in China); it opened to around $100,000 in 20 theaters. Its domestic take will be an all-time low-share of such a massive success. Magnolia didn’t report the initial two-theater New York take for the Romanian title “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn.”


The Top 10

1. Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 47; Estimated budget: $75 million

$44,000,000 in 4,315 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $10,197,000; Cumulative: $44,000,000

2. The Eternals (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend #1

$10,825,000 (-60%) in 4,055 (-35) theaters; PTA: $2,670; Cumulative: $135,817,000

3. Clifford the Big Red Dog (Paramount) Week 2; Last weekend #2; also on Paramount Plus

$8,100,000 (-51%) in 3,268 (-72) theaters; PTA: $2,233; Cumulative: $33,513,000

4. King Richard (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 77; Estimated budget: $50 million

$5,700,000 in 3,302 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $1,726; Cumulative: $5,700,000

5. Dune (Warner Bros.) Week 5; Last weekend #3; also on HBO Max (through Sunday)

$3,065,000 (-45%) in 2,467 (-815) theaters; PTA: $1,242; Cumulative: $98,192,000

6. Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Sony) Week 8; Last weekend #5

$2,800,000 (-29%) in 2,230 (-308) theaters; PTA: $1,242; Cumulative: $206,500,000

7. No Time to Die (United Artists) Week 7; Last weekend #4; also on Premium VOD

$2,706,000 (-40%) in 2,407 (-460) theaters; PTA: $1,124; Cumulative: $154,689,000

8. The French Dispatch (Searchlight) Week 5; Last weekend #8

$970,000 (-45%) in 805 (-420) theaters; PTA: $1,205; Cumulative: $10,825,000

9. Belfast (Focus) Week 2; Last weekend #7

$940,000 (-47%) in 584 (+2) theaters; PTA: $1,610; Cumulative: $3,500,000

10. Ron’s Gone Wrong (Disney) Week 5; Last weekend #6

$888,000 (-%) in 1,520 (-910) theaters; PTA: $584; Cumulative: $22,090,000




Additional specialized/limited/independent releases

C’mon C’mon (A24) NEW – Metacritic: 80; Festivals include: Telluride, New York 2021

$134,447 in 5 theaters; PTA: $26,889

The Power of the Dog (Netflix) NEW – Metacritic: 89; Festivals include: Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York 2021

$ (est.) 125,000 in 40 theaters; PTA: (est.) $3,125; Cumulative: $160,000

The First Wave (Neon) NEW – Metacritic: 87; Festivals include: Hamptons 2021

$68,115 in 11 theaters; PTA: $6,192

India Sweets and Spices (Bleecker Street) NEW – Metacritic: 59; Festivals include: Tribeca 2021

$172,597 in 343 theaters; PTA: $503

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time (IFC) NEW – Metacritic: 62; Festivals include: Doc NYC; also on VOD

$30,000 in 68 theaters; PTA: $441

Julia (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 2

$42,284 in 47 theaters; PTA: $900; Cumulative: $66,264

Spencer (Neon) – Week 3

$690,076 in 954 (-311) theaters;  Cumulative: $6,103,000


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