THE MOMENT IS HERE. The most-loathed trailer in YouTube history (943K+ dislikes and counting!) finally proves that, yes, it honestly was promoting a real, actual “Ghostbusters” re-boot. Truth be told, I would count myself among the pre-emptive haters here: the previews for this latest Paul Feig-Melissa McCarthy collaboration, the fourth, looked really, really awful, purely from a comedy perspective. The 1984 Ivan Reitman-directed “Ghostbusters” may have become a bit of a sacred cow, too, for the basement troll cognoscenti (and certainly, its 1989 sequel was a mediocre misfire) — but essentially remaking it sans humor and without the original four characters seems like a horrifically tone-deaf idea. There’s no way it could ever trump the original, so original and so of its time, built as it was around writer-star Dan Aykroyd and his “SNL” buddy Bill Murray. It’d be like remaking “Animal House” (oh god, please don’t) or “Rocky” — “Ghostbusters” was a high-concept movie, yes, but one built around squarely its stars. You can’t disassociate Dan Aykroyd and Chicago’s own Bill Murray and Harold Ramis from “Ghostbusters.” They ARE “Ghostbusters” (Ernie Hudson was just kind of there, Reitman didn’t give him nearly enough to do in either movie). Also, of course, I’m sick of reboots, remakes, prequels and sequels becoming the primary non-animated game in town when it comes to major studio output. Audiences are getting tired of them, too, if the cumulative returns this year offer any indication. But this third “Ghostbusters” will still almost open like gangbusters (almost). It may not “bust” all over the face of “Pets,” but it’s definitely going to “ghost” the rest of the competition. Okay, okay, I’m done.
More annoying news on the unwanted follow-up front: the unsuccessful (among critics and the paying public) sequel to “Now You See Me” (it’s taken in a paltry $62.7 million against a $90 million budget stateside, and figures to wrap up in the vicinity of $70 million) has somehow netted a Chinese-language spin-off movie. So… yeah. Clear your calendars for that piece of hot garbage.
Also new this weekend (it opened to $1.4 million on Wednesday), in a sort of half-hearted wide release, is the Bryan Cranston Escobar thriller “The Infiltrator.” Broad Green Pictures is following up a low-key marketing campaign with a 1,600-theater release; this is one of those movies that, 10 years ago, would have been all over TV in the weeks leading up to its unveiling, and would be opening in double the theaters. I for one am intrigued to see Heisenberg himself returning to the drug thriller sandbox. I don’t see it opening over an $8 million showing or so, which would be an acceptable return for a smaller wide release — although it will be an uphill climb for Cranston and co. to make back their reported $47.5 million production budget.
Weekend: July 15th-17th, 2016
Big New Releases: “Ghostbusters,” “The Infiltrator” (1,600 theaters)
Big Holdovers: “The Secret Life of Pets,” “The Legend of Tarzan,” “Finding Dory,” “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates,” “The Purge: Election Year,” “Independence Day: Resurgence”
1. “The Secret Life of Pets” (4,381 theaters) – $60 million (-43%) second weekend, $315 million final
Another weekend, another moment of glorious animation domination. For the fifth weekend in a row, look for adorable talking animals to claim the top spot at the domestic box office, with “Pets” holding up well enough to keep “Ghostbusters” out of the top spot. Having already banked $142.2 million in its first 6 days, it looks to comfortably cruise past the $200 million milestone by the end of just its 9th day in US theaters. “Pets” has a real shot at being the third animated $300 million+ domestic grosser this year (after “Zootopia” in March and now “Finding Dory”), proving that kids are still more than happy to go to theaters if their parents can be successfully lured with great trailers (“Pets” and “Zootopia” had some of the cleverest previews of the year thus far).
2. “Ghostbusters” (PG-13, 3,963 theaters) – $50 mill first weekend, $130 million final
“Ghostbusters” has been so hyped for so many months, though, that it’s destined to open strong. Not as strong as Sony no doubt would like, since it’s based on a property that made $242.2 million in domestic 1984 dollars (that’s $584.2 million in 2016 money). The original movie didn’t have much of a showing internationally, just $53 million in receipts, so its final worldwide gross was $295.2 million. “Ghostbusters II” pulled in $112.5 million domestically ($243.1 million in today’s dollars) and $102.9 million overseas, for a cumulative sum of $215.4 million worldwide. A note: it’s virtually impossible to adjust international box office accurately, because the rate of inflation across so many different countries is highly variable. This new one should have a very good international showing, as an FX-heavy retread for a series that has generated so much international goodwill. Also, I mean, international audiences loved “Warcraft,” so they’re not always too discerning.
Anyway. This new “Ghostbusters” movie may play more like a Melissa McCarthy summer comedy than a “Ghostbusters” sequel. It has virtually no hope of matching or outpacing its predecessors in terms of asses-in-seats. I don’t see it even hitting $150 million, let alone $240 million. Fan interest is fairly muted considering it’s the first “Ghostbusters” movie in 27 years. McCarthy’s three prior collaborations with Feig have all crossed the $100 million mark domestically, with the first two (“Bridesmaids” and “The Heat”) both grossing over $150 million. Surprisingly, “Ghostbusters” has posted a Certified Fresh Rotten Tomatoes score of 73% thus far. It even sports a decent 60% rating on Metacritic. I’m still going to skip it, though.
3. “Finding Dory” (PG, 3,536 theaters) – $12 million (-43%) fifth weekend, $460 million final
I’m sick of talking about “Finding Dory.” I don’t care how damn cute it is, even if it does cater to people like me who have horrible short-term memory problems. I AM NOT A FUNNY FISH, I AM A HUMAN BEING WHO CAN’T REMEMBER WHAT HE WANTED TO DO TWO SECONDS AGO. Let’s just move on.
4. “The Legend of Tarzan” (PG-13, 3,551 theaters) – $12 million (-45%) third weekend, $120 million final
It’s weird when a $100 million+ grosser with awful reviews and a surprisingly robust opening weekend is technically a domestic disappointment, but that’s going to be the case with the latest “Tarzan” adventure. I feel like they could’ve used more Phil Collins and Rosie O’Donnell here if they really wanted their numbers to soar.
5. “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” (R, 3,008 theaters) – $8 million (-50%) second weekend, $45 million final
Fox’s R-rated Efron raunch fest “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” has pulled in a paltry $23.8 million thus far in the States, although it really doesn’t need to make much more to eclipse its reported $33 million production budget. Like most comedies, it’s going to struggle to translate abroad, so its domestic tally is that much more important; thus far it’s pulled in just $4.4 million abroad.