November 21, 2021
Sony Pictures Entertainment’s bet delaying tentpole theatrical releases until the pandemic waned continues to pay off. The studio’s family sci-fi comedy movie Ghostbusters: Afterlife generated more than $44 million in projected opening weekend ticket sales across more than 4,000 North American screens the weekend of Nov. 19-21. Sony had projected around $30 million in ticket sales. Media reports suggest 3.5 million went to see the movie.
The fourth film in the “Ghostbusters” franchise saw director Jason Reitman continue the storyline of the original 1984 film with a return to a family-themed fantasy starring Paul Rudd and a young ensemble cast (making it the third film in that arc, after 1989’s Ghostbusters II).
The box office tally is slightly below the 2016 remake Ghostbusters: Answer the Call ($46 million), which didn’t have a COVID cloud hanging over it. With Afterlife heading into the Thanksgiving week/weekend, the movie is projected to have strong legs with children out of school for the holiday.
The movie follows Sony’s successful Oct. 1 release of Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which ranks as the year’s No. 2 at the domestic box office with $204 million in revenue.
Separately, a competing new release, Warner Bros. Pictures’ King Richard, a biopic about tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams and their driven father Richard Williams, played by Will Smith, realized about $5.7 million in ticket sales across 3,300 screens. It’s no grand slam, but par for Warner’s $5 million to $10 million projection. The movie is concurrently streaming for no extra charge to subscribers of HBO Max — a release strategy some observers say has undermined Warner’s non-tentpole releases.
Richard was not able to fend off the third week of Disney/Marvel’s Eternals at $10.8 million ($135.8 million North American total) or the second week of Paramount Pictures’ Clifford the Big Red Dog, ($8.1 million/$33.5 million total).