Box-Office Preview: Can 'Ghostbusters' Spook Naysayers and Channel a $50M Opening?

GHOSTBUSTERS Leslie Jones Melissa McCarthy Kristen Wiig Kate McKinnon Still 3 H 2016
Courtesy of Sony Pictures

The Sony tentpole has generated plenty of controversy thanks to its all-female Ghostbusters, played by Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. 'The Infiltrator,' Woody Allen's 'Cafe Society' and 'Equals' also open this weekend.

Paul Feig's Ghostbusters reboot — the summer's most-talked-about tentpole — finally rolls out in theaters this weekend, touching off a fierce guessing game as to how it will perform.

Sony insiders are predicting a domestic debut in the $38 million-$40 million range from 3,950 locations, a mediocre start considering the movie's net production budget of $144 million (rebates and tax incentives brought it down from $154 million). But other box-office observers believe it will open to $45 million or better — one tracking service even has it crossing $50 million — thanks to generally strong reviews and an aggressive marketing campaign. If it comes in on the higher end, Ghostbusters could even find itself in a close race with holdover The Secret Life of Pets for the No. 1 spot.

From Illumination and Universal, Secret Life of Pets opened to a rousing $104 million last weekend, the top showing ever for an original movie (i.e., not a sequel or a film based on existing IP), animated or otherwise. It remains to be seen whether the two films will compete for families.

Sony made Ghostbusters in association with Village Roadshow Pictures.

Feig, the director behind Bridesmaids and The Heat, sparked a loud outcry among some fans of the classic 1984 film when he announced his Ghostbusters would be all female, casting frequent collaborators Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig alongside Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. In the first movie, the paranormal investigators were famously played by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Harold Ramis, while Annie Potts starred as their secretary (this time out, Chris Hemsworth plays the assistant).

Ivan Reitman, who directed the 1984 film, produced the update alongside former Sony studio chief Amy Pascal. They've been careful to label the new movie a reboot, versus a sequel, and while a number of stars from the original Ghostbusters make cameos — including Murray, Aykroyd, Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Potts — they play different characters.

The only other film opening nationwide this weekend is The Infiltrator, starring Bryan Cranston as a federal agent who infiltrates Pablo Escobar's drug cartel. Brad Furman directed the movie, which Broad Green Pictures bows Wednesday in roughly 1,600 theaters. John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Benjamin Bratt, Yul Vazquez and Amy Ryan also star.

New openers at the specialty box office include Woody Allen's Cafe Society and Equals (Kristen Stewart stars in both films). Also, the latest documentary from arch-conservative filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza opens, Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party.