The box office ain’t afraid of no ghosts.
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” a sequel to the 1980s sci-fi comedy classic, opened at No. 1 in North America, collecting a solid $44 million from 4,315 venues. The better-than-expected result is an encouraging sign that family audiences are willing to visit their local multiplex, provided there’s something broadly entertaining to be found there. During the pandemic, parents with young kids haven’t been the most active ticket buyers, but that could change now that COVID-19 vaccines have been deemed safe for children. However, adult-skewing dramas like “King Richard,” which fizzled in its box office debut, continue to struggle.
Internationally, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” earned $16 million from 31 overseas markets, pushing its worldwide total to $60 million. Directed by Jason Reitman, the latest installment in the supernatural series is shaping up to be a win for the studio after it failed to revive the franchise years earlier. It should be noted that Sony’s 2016 all-female reboot of “Ghostbuster” premiered to $46 million — only $2 million more than “Afterlife.” However, that film cost $144 million (compared to the $75 million price tag for “Afterlife”) making it a box office dud. The newest version, which stars Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon and Mckenna Grace and picks up decades after the original story about ghost-catching parapsychologists — has received mostly positive feedback. Sony is counting on strong word-of-mouth to help the film stand out and continue to appeal to crowds over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
“It’s going to get mighty crowded at the multiplex later this week when three new high profile wide releases hit screens,” says Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian, referring to next weekend’s offerings Disney’s musical “Encanto,” MGM’s star-studded “House of Gucci” and Sony’s horror thriller “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City.” However, Dergarabedian adds, “the film should be able to stand up to the newcomers [and] will benefit from the extended holiday frame.”
Outside of action-heavy tentpoles like “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and recent releases such as Marvel’s “Eternals” and MGM’s James Bond entry “No Time to Die,” the domestic moviegoing landscape remains largely impaired. Despite rapturous reviews and Oscar buzz, the Warner Bros. release “King Richard” became the latest adult-oriented drama to crumble at the box office. The film, starring Will Smith as the father of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams, eked out a meager $5.7 million from 3,302 venues in North America. Heading into the weekend, the studio was projecting a start closer to $10 million.
It may be slightly premature to call “King Richard” an out-and-out bomb because Warner Bros. is releasing it concurrently on HBO Max, which likely cut into ticket sales. The company didn’t report any HBO Max viewership metrics. Warners is hoping that positive sentiment from audiences, who gave the film an “A” CinemaScore,” and awards chatter for Smith could extend its life in theaters and keep the movie playing throughout the holidays. The film wasn’t cheap; it carries a $50 million production budget. Plus, Smith received his full backend box office bonus in addition to his $20 million salary as a make-good for sending the film to HBO Max.
The low audience turnout for “King Richard” isn’t for lack of effort. Smith heavily promoted the film, sitting down for a rare, lengthy cover story with GQ and gracing the front of Entertainment Weekly with Venus and Serena, who were executive producers on the film. But the reality is that intimate dramas, even a crowd-pleaser like “King Richard,” haven’t been compelling big-screen draws. That’s especially true when audiences are able to watch the film at home on HBO Max or other streaming services. In pandemic times, there have been 23 films to open nationwide that fall into the category of drama, with openings averaging under $3 million. None have been able to reach $10 million to start, though “Respect,” the musical biopic about Aretha Franklin, came the closest in the COVID-era with $8.8 million.
“This is a weak opening, in spite of outstanding audience ratings and review scores,” says David A. Gross, who runs consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. He points out that sports biopics tend to have limited appeal at the international box office. “Certainly,” he adds, “the movie would be doing bigger numbers without the streaming option.”
“King Richard” landed in fourth place on box office charts, behind holdovers Marvel’s “Eternals” and Paramount’s “Clifford the Big Red Dog.”
After two weekends at No. 1, “Eternals” slid to second place, collecting $10.8 million from 4,055 theaters. To date, the superhero epic has generated $135.8 million in the U.S. and Canada and $200.3 million internationally. Meanwhile, “Clifford” pulled in $8.1 million in its second weekend of release, pushing the family-friendly film to $33.5 million in North America while playing simultaneously on Paramount Plus.
Warner Bros. sci-fi spectacle “Dune” rounded out the top five with $3 million in ticket sales, buoying its domestic tally to $98.1 million. The film, directed by Denis Villeneuve and adapted from Frank Herbert’s seminal novel, is expected to surpass the $100 million mark in the next week.
Also this weekend, “No Time to Die” notched a major milestone at the global box office. With $734 million worldwide, the James Bond sequel has surpassed Universal’s “F9: The Fast Saga” ($725 million worldwide) becoming the highest-grossing Hollywood movie of the year.
On the independent scene, A24’s black-and-white drama “C’mon C’mon” had the best platform release since the pandemic began. The heartwarming film, directed by Mike Mills and starring Joaquin Phoenix, amassed $134,447 from five screens in New York and Los Angeles, translating to $26,889 million per location. That narrowly defeats Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” which averaged $25,938 per location while opening on many more screens. “The French Dispatch” kicked off in 52 venues, a huge theater count for an indie film, and made $1.3 million in its first three days of release. Now in its sixth weekend in theaters, “The French Dispatch” landed in the No. 8 spot, bringing in $1 million for the weekend and $13.3 million to date.
Elsewhere, Neon and Participant’s pandemic-inspired documentary “The First Wave,” dedicated to the efforts of healthcare workers during COVID-19, touched down in 11 cinemas. The film generated $68,115 over the weekend, averaging $6,192 from each location.
See this weekend’s estimated box office tally below:
- “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” — $44 million
- “Eternals” — $10.8 million
- “Clifford the Big Red Dog” — $8.1 million
- “King Richard” — $5.7 million
- “Dune” — $3 million