UPDATED: As Sony Pictures Entertainment struggled a year ago to recover from a computer hacking debacle and a string of box office flops, the studio and the new chairman of its motion picture group, Tom Rothman, could look forward hopefully to a turnaround that would include a rebooted “Ghostbusters.”
But nearly a month after the release of the female-powered comedy, Sony has had to push its turnaround date farther on to the horizon — to fall or winter and much-anticipated offerings like the Western “The Magnificent Seven,” and the space odyssey, “Passengers,” starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt.
Nearly a month after its release, “Ghostbusters,” has brought in just $180 million worldwide. And with a total take projected to end up at something like $240 million, the reimagining of the 1984 favorite will not come close to making back its large production and marketing budgets. Sources familiar with the film’s finances say that it’s likely to end up losing about $75 million, with Sony’s financial hit coming closer to about $50 million, because of its co-financing arrangement with Village Roadshow.
Sony appears to be done with “Ghostbusters” as a live-action franchise, though the studio continues to tout the picture as a winner on other fronts and Rothman is said to be pleased that the studio had been able to defray costs on the film, particularly by sharing its marketing expenses with a platoon of branding partners. Sony insiders project the total loss on the film, for Sony and its financial partners, will be closer to $25 million.
The movie has yet to open in some markets, including Japan, Korea, Spain, France and Mexico. There are talks about shifting the franchise to an animated feature that could debut in 2019 and also a Ghostbusters TV spinoff, that could be ready a year earlier. The studio also touts the spread of the brand to everything from action figures to the virtual-reality Ghostbusters attraction at Madame Tussauds in New York.
And many of the ads that sold “Ghostbusters” to the world came via co-branding via partners like Progressive Insurance, Papa John’s and Dave & Buster’s. The ad alliances brought a total value of $60 million to the movie’s marketing, according to an individual familiar with the campaign.
The movie “has reignited a 30-year-old brand and put it into the modern zeitgeist,” said a Sony spokesperson. “As a result, we have many ideas to further exploit the Ghostbusters universe.”
The Paul Feig-directed film — starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon — drew some backlash from fans of the original film, who objected to women playing the roles once inhabited by men. That led to a counter-protest, in which women came out in support of the new “Ghostbusters.” Critics were torn about the film, which received a 73% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
“We couldn’t be more proud of the incredible movie that Paul Feig made,” the studio spokesperson said.
Rothman arrived at Sony in the middle of last year, inheriting the “Ghostbusters” project from the previous administration. He worked tirelessly to trim the budget of the film, with some observers worried a summer comedy wouldn’t be able to cover a production budget that Sony put at $144 million. (Others familiar with the film said it cost considerably more than that.)
Village Roadshow will take a hit of about $18 million for its one-quarter share of the total and additionally owes roughly $7 million in distribution fees, putting its total “Ghostbusters” loss at about $25 million, the sources said. A spokesperson for Village Roadshow said the company declined to comment.
And what of the future of “Ghostbusters”? “They will go the animation route now and do the best they can with that,” said one of the sources, who declined to be named discussing Sony’s internal strategy. “I can’t imagine why they would even think about a live-action sequel.”
The studio spokesperson said: “With multiple revenue streams, including consumer products, gaming, location-based entertainment, continued international rollout, and huge third-party promotional and financial partnerships that mitigated costs, the bottom line is way below that number.”