While it’s not among the films tackling troubling or politically-important subject matter scheduled for the period, the remake of comedy classic Ghostbusters has emerged as likely the most controversial film of summer 2016. Ever since Sony announced that they would pass on a long-rumored third installment in favor of a remake from director Paul Feig, the project has drawn surprising anger from a minority of ultra-vocal internet denizens largely centering on the project’s unusual decision to recast the leads with a lineup of female comedians.
Now, the first box office tracking for the film suggests that, despite the angry voices, the film could be looking at solid financial returns for the studio.
According to THR, Ghostbusters is currently tracking for between $40 and $50 million at the U.S. opening weekend box office. While not exactly the kind of $100 million+ take often projected for established franchise blockbusters like Disney/Pixar films, the Fast & Furious franchise or Marvel Cinematic Universe features, it’s well in line with the opening performance of other revived Generation-X nostalgia properties like Tron Legacy, which bowed with $43 million in 2010. Despite professed fan interest, the Ghostbusters franchise has struggled to return to the theaters and has not been a theatrically-viable property since Ghostbusters II hit in 1989.
The numbers could also place the film as having the highest opening weekend take of Feig’s career, exceeding the returns for Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy – all of which were built on the shared conceit of reworking comedy premises typically centered on male characters (raunchy comedy, buddy-cops, and spy-spoofs) with female leads. Previously, the $39 million opening of The Heat was Feig’s biggest take to date.
The film’s numbers are currently tracking highest with women and younger audiences, with Sony only recently having pivoted their marketing to increase awareness among men with a large-scale advertising push tied to the NBA Finals. While the decision to remake Ghostbusters (which also launched a popular line of toys and well-regarded animated series) was likely always going to earn skepticism from disappointed fans of the original, Feig’s decision to use an all-female main cast has led to some eruptions of fandom anger being tinged with explicit or veiled sexism – which in turn have led the cast, the filmmakers and most recently newly-installed Sony boss Tom Rothman to respond, transforming what might otherwise have been another breezy summer comedy offering into a “culture war” battleground on social media. It remains to be seen, however, whether or not any of this will affect the actual performance of the film with mainstream audiences.
While Ghostbusters shares the premise, title and some of the iconography of the original film; it does not feature any of the original characters and the new actors are not playing incarnations of the previous stars. The original film centered on a team of paranormal investigators who develop technology to remove and contain ghosts haunting New York City locales and find themselves battling an ancient pagan deity, while the remake follows a pair of former friends – one a “serious” scientist, the other a disgraced viral-video ghost-hunter – who assemble a team to thwart a plot to raise an army of evil spirits in the city.
Ghostbusters arrives in US theaters on July 15, 2016.