After many years of rumors that Ghostbusters 3 – uniting the stars of Ghostbusters (1984) for another ghost-catching romp in New York – was right around the corner, a reboot of the paranormal comedy franchise was what ended up moving forward instead. The film hit theaters this summer, featuring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon as its leads and director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy) calling the shots from a script that he co-wrote with Katie Dippold (The Heat).
Ghostbusters (2016) was a critical success and was in general well-received by the moviegoing public, despite the widely-reported backlash that it faced ahead of its release. However, Ghostbusters has been less successful where it counts for the future of the franchise: at the box office.
The film has taken in $180 million worldwide in theaters and exceeded expectations with its tie-in merchandise sales, but is still a ways off from recouping its $144 million production budget and equally-large marketing costs. Hence, while Sony Pictures executives were quick to announce their confidence in a sequel happening when the movie premiered in theaters, it’s now looking unlikely that Ghostbusters 2 will be moving forward.
THR reports that while Ghostbusters has yet to open in noteworthy markets like France, Japan and Mexico, the film is looking at a potential loss of $70 million (or higher), when all is said and done. Although that’s not on the same level as the losses suffered by fellow under-performing tentpoles The Lone Ranger and Tomorrowland in years past, a $70 million loss would effectively kill the chance of Feig’s Ghostbusters movie reboot getting an immediate second installment. [UPDATE: A report from Variety asserts that Sony is likely to lose closer to $50 million on the film, due to its co-financing agreement on Ghostbusters with Village Roadshow.]
There are a handful of reasons that may explain why Ghostbusters under-performed at the box office, aside from the backlash against the film. For starters, Feig’s movie was sandwiched between one of this summer’s surprise big hits (The Secret Life of Pets) and several noteworthy franchise movies (Star Trek Beyond, Jason Bourne) during its first two weeks of theatrical release alone. Moreover, as much nostalgia love as there is for the 1984 Ghostbusters and its animated TV spinoff The Real Ghostbusters, Sony may have simply over-estimated the commercial viability of the Ghostbusters brand when it invested so much money into the reboot. Plus, most seem to agree that the reboot’s expensive marketing campaign didn’t do the actual film justice – and that no doubt affected its box office performance.
Sony, for its part, is standing behind the Ghostbusters reboot. A rep for the studio issued the following statement to THR:
“We’re very proud of the bold movie Paul Feig made, which critics and audiences loved. It has enlivened a 30-year-old brand and put it into the modern zeitgeist. As a result, we have many ideas in the works to further exploit the Ghostbusters universe.”
True to their word, Sony is still moving forward with the previously-announced new Ghostbusters animated TV series (Ghostbusters: Ecto Force) and a Ghostbusters animated film. The tentative plan is for those projects to be released in 2018 and 2019, respectively, though it’s always possible that Sony’s plans will change in the meantime (see also: the studio’s abandoned Amazing Spider-Man cinematic universe). Nevertheless, if the Ghostbusters franchise continues to live on in animated form, then there is a chance that those who enjoyed the 2016 movie reboot haven’t seen the last of Erin (Wiig), Abby (McCarthy), Patty (Jones) and/or Holzmann (McKinnon) yet – even if they only return in cartoon form.
Ghostbusters is now playing in theaters. The Ghostbusters: Ecto Force TV show is aiming to debut in 2018, followed by the animated Ghostbusters film in 2019.