Box Office: ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ Was Supposed To Open Today, But Instead ‘Ghostbusters’ Set A New Mileston.
Had things gone as planned, I’d be calculating the Thursday preview numbers for Universal’s The Forever Purge (currently delayed to July 9, 2021) and Sony’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife (now slated for March 5, 2021). Instead, I’m talking about a new box office record set last weekend by Ghostbusters. No, not Ghostbusters: Afterlife or even Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, but the original Bill Murray/Dan Aykroyd/Sigourney Weaver-starring 1984 blockbuster. The film was, all obvious disclaimers and asterisks notwithstanding, the top movie at last weekend’s box office.
The film earned, so says Deadline, an additional $550,000 in 622 theaters during the Fri-Sun portion of a $656k Wed-Sun holiday frame. For the first time since 1984, Ivan’s Reitman’s sci-fi comedy was the top movie over the Independence Day weekend. And for the first time in almost 36 years, Ghostbusters was the weekend’s top theatrical attraction. That ironically bests the milestone for the longest gap between number one-ranked weekends for a movie set just weeks ago by Jurassic Park.
The dino flick was the top movie amid a flurry of indie horror flicks and re-issued blockbusters in late June, doing so 27 years after its last chart-topping weekend in 1993. In this case, the last weekend during which Ghostbusters was the top-ranked movie of the weekend in North America was in mid-September of 1984, its 15th weekend of release and its tenth weekend at the top. So, yeah, with a gap of around 35.75 years, Ghostbusters can now (unofficially?) claim the longest amount of time passed between chart-topping weekends for a live-action movie.
As noted last month, Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs topped the box office in weekend 14 of its reissue in 1983 (46 years after opening), while 101 Dalmatians did so in weekend nine of its reissue in 1991 (30 years after opening). It is entirely possible that Gone with the Wind may have topped the box office any number of times over its many reissues. However, the Vivian Leigh/Clark Gable mega-blockbuster ($1.9 billion in inflation-adjusted domestic earnings) was rereleased so many times between 1942 and 1989 that it’s likely that the whole “years between chart-topping weekends” thing is null and void.
This eleventh chart-topping frame ties it with Back to the Future for 11 total winning weekends, below Home Alone (12 weekends), Tootsie and Beverly Hills Cop with 14 each, Titanic (15) and E.T. (16). Speaking of which, when the hell is Paramount going to unleash Titanic into theaters so it can grab one or two more chart-topping victories so it can tie or surpass E.T. in terms of non-consecutive Fri-Sun victories? Even if Chinese theaters don’t open in time to give an rerelease of Avatar a chance to dethrone Avengers: Endgame, James Cameron can still nab one more arbitrary record.
As far as Ghostbusters, it’s easy to see, especially in this IP/franchise/marquee character environment, why Sony is so gung-ho about trying to turn a hit movie into a vibrant franchise. First of all, they pulled it off with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Second, the 1984 smash is Columbia’s biggest grosser ever in inflation-adjusted earnings ($243 million all-told/$668 million adjusted). Third, the sci-fi comedy was the first non-Spielberg/Lucas movie ever to top $200 million in domestic earnings. It would join Beverly Hills Cop ($234 million) months later as the only ones to do so before Tim Burton’s Batman five years later.
Whether or not the “well-liked actors playing marquee characters” hook will do for Afterlife (relatively speaking) what The Force Awakens did for Star Wars, there’s also a chance of the Jason Reitman-directed legacy sequel playing closer to Terminator: Dark Fate and Independence Day: Resurgence, although I’m going to guess that Afterlife cost closer to Jumanji 2 ($90 million) than Answer the Call ($144 million) or Terminator 6 ($185 million). We were supposed to find out the answer to that question this weekend. But now we’ll have to wait until March 5, 2021. Meanwhile, let’s see if Ghostbusters can notch an unofficial 12th weekend at the top of the weekend box office.