Ghostbusted by Pets
By David Mumpower and Kim Hollis
July 17, 2016
Eventually, the decision was made to give Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy) the director’s chair and to reboot the story with female leads. Although Feig clearly had a high comfort level with women-driven projects, the idea was quickly met with derision that smacked uncomfortably of sexism. Still, there was reason for optimism. Feig re-teamed with his Bridesmaids stars Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, and rising stars Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones were brought on to round out the core group. Casting Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, as the nerdy male Annie Potts counterpart would have seemed to be a silly masterstroke.
Then, the trailers for the movie were revealed. Lacking humor and feeling scattershot, people understandably reacted negatively (the preview would even eventually become the most disliked on YouTube). Naturally, this brought about its own share of controversy, as media outlets noted that comments on YouTube tended to be misogynistic rather than pointing out legitimate concerns with the movie’s quality. For his part, Ivan Reitman, director of the original film, credited the negative reaction more to people's nostalgia for the 1984 version rather than any true sexism or anti-feminist sentiment.
With all the toxicity surrounding Ghostbusters’ impending release, the outlook was grim. 2016 has not been kind to reboots and sequels that are viewed as unnecessary, and it seemed that the outcry against this particular film update was stronger than any other. Yet, reviews were solid (73% at Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences liked it well enough to give it a B+ Cinemascore (same as Bridesmaids and Spy). Its Thursday preview box office of $3.4 million was neither disastrous nor exciting.
The total box office for Friday was $17.2 million, a number that factors in those Thursday showings. Thus, the “true Friday” box office was $13.8 million. In a surprising show of strength, Ghostbusters was able to increase on that “true Friday” number for a Saturday take of $16.4 million. Ultimately, the three-day total of $46 million exceeded most tracking and forecasting expectations, and should lead to decent enough headlines that future audiences will remain intrigued. Ghostbusters 2016 is saddled with a $140 million plus production budget, which is the primary reason it may not approach profitability. Sony has to be pleased with what has turned out to be a best-case scenario for box office performance.
If Warner Bros. hadn’t lost their minds with the production budget for The Legend of Tarzan, we’d be calling it an unqualified hit right now. For the third straight weekend, it finished in the top three and has yet to decline more than 50% in a weekend. Its third frame earnings of $11.1 million bring its domestic total to $103.1 million after 17 days. For a story that’s been told so many times, that’s a very strong performance. The problem is that sticking a television actor in a loincloth and running him through the jungle somehow cost $180 million, and that’s crazy. The Legend of Tarzan has averted disaster and will wind up with global revenue in excess of its budget. If Warner Bros. had been more frugal in making the movie, it’d stand as one of the solid hits of the summer. Instead, the best that they can hope for is a draw.