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Box Office: ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ Targets $30 Million Debut, ‘King Richard’ to Serve Up $10 Million Start

McKenna Grace Ghostbusters
Courtesy of Kimberley French/Sony Pictures

Sony’s supernatural comedy sequel “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is aiming to generate $30 million from 4,300 theaters in its domestic box office debut.

The final weekend figure could vary slightly, with the studio predicting a three-day tally near $28 million and independent tracking services estimating a start closer to $35 million. In any case, the PG-13 “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is eyeing a first-place finish on domestic box office charts. In terms of new nationwide releases, its only competition is the Warner Bros. sports drama “King Richard,” starring Will Smith as the father of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams. That film is projected to collect $8 million to $10 million from 3,250 cinemas while playing simultaneously on HBO Max.

Jason Reitman directed “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” taking the reins from his father Ivan Reitman, who helmed the original 1984 film “Ghostbusters.” The first movie — featuring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as ghost-catching parapsychologists — was critically and commercially successful, later spawning sequels, animated series, video games and an ill-fated 2016 reboot. The upcoming installment picks up 30 years after the original series and centers on a family who moves to a small down and discovers their connection to the legendary ghost-catching business. Murray, Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts reprise their role from the first films, while Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace and Paul Rudd have join the cast.

Sony has triumphantly revived decades-old properties, in the case of 2017’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and its 2019 sequel “The Next Level,” as well as 2020’s “Bad Boys for Life.” But the studio has learned the hard way, through major box office disappointments in 2019’s “Charlie’s Angels” and “Men In Black: International,” that not every franchise is destined to return to the big screen. So it’s helpful that “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” which cost $75 million to produce, has generated positive reviews. Variety’s chief film critic Peter Debruge says the younger Reitman gives the series “a fresh jolt of energy.”

“The good news for ‘Ghostbusters’ fans is that ‘Afterlife’ does nothing to tarnish what has come before, overseen as it is by Jason Reitman, carrying on the legacy of his father (and ‘Ghostbusters’ director) Ivan, who played an important behind-the-scenes role in shaping this 21st-century update,” he wrote.

“King Richard” will be an interesting test for Warners, since hardly any of its 2021 releases have been able to break out at the box office while being offered on HBO Max at the same time. Though “King Richard” is targeting a modest debut, the feel-good film — about one father’s determination to turn his daughters into all-star athletes — could benefit from glowing word-of-mouth. Oscar pundits believe the movie could find itself in the awards race, which could extend its life in theaters. Along with Smith, the cast includes Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Tony Goldwyn and Jon Bernthal.

Debruge, who also reviewed “King Richard” for Variety, called the film an “engaging true-life drama.” He wrote, “Featuring a grizzled and nearly unrecognizable Will Smith in the title role, ‘Monsters and Men’ director Reinaldo Marcus Green’s ‘King Richard’ is a good old-fashioned Horatio Alger story for our time, detailing how a Black kid who grew up ‘running from the Klan’ in Shreveport, La., set his mind to a goal and made it happen.”

Elsewhere at the domestic box office, A24’s black-and-white drama “C’mon, C’mon,” directed by Mike Mills and starring Joaquin Phoenix, is one of several indie films opening in limited release.