Ghostbusters: Afterlife Surprises At The Box Office With A Big Opening Weekend

Finn Wolfhard fixing the Ecto 1 in Ghostbusters Afterlife
(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

When estimates started to pop up last week prognosticating the box office performance of Jason Reitman’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the outlook was not precisely overwhelming. Estimates suggested that the numbers would likely top out at about $35 million, which is a fair amount of money, but not a huge deal for an IP blockbuster. Now the early results are in, and it appears as though the predictions proved to be too conservative, as the film has easily surpassed expectations.

Check out the full Top 10 below, and join me after for analysis!

Ghostbusters Afterlife box office weekend

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)
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1. Ghostbusters: Afterlife*$44,000,000 $44,000,000 Row 0 - Cell 3 4,315
2. Eternals$10,825,000 $135,817,163 14,055
3. Clifford The Big Red Dog$8,100,165 $33,513,000 23,628
4. King Richard*$5,700,000 $5,700,000 Row 3 - Cell 3 3,302
5. Dune$3,065,000 $98,191,988 32,467
6. Venom: Let There Be Carnage$2,770,000 $206,470,066 52,230
7. No Time To Die$2,705,566 $154,688,693 42,407
8. The French Dispatch$970,000 $13,293,934 8805
9. Ron’s Gone Wrong$888,000 $22,098,722 61,520
10. Spencer$690,000 $6,103,390 9954

According to Deadline, Sony Pictures was only expecting Ghostbusters: Afterlife to max out at $28 million this weekend, so one can imagine that folks over there are blasting party music and popping champagne bottles. This marks the second time in a little over a month-and-a-half that the studio has put out a surprising hit, as Andy SerkisVenom: Let There Be Carnage remains 2021’s opening weekend champion, having made $90 million in its first three days back in early October.

Instead of settling for just the Top 20, Ghostbusters: Afterlife had one of the ten best starts we’ve seen for a blockbuster in 2021, with its $44 million haul taking over ninth place on the year’s opening weekend chart, pushing down Denis Villeneuve’s Dune (which made $41 million when it was first released in theaters and on HBO Max last month). With some massive titles set to come out between now and the end of December, one can expect that it will ultimately be pushed out of the Top 10, but for now it can enjoy its time in the sun.

Celeste O'Connor McKenna Grace Logan Kim and Finn Wolfhard in Ghostbusters Afterlife

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

So what does this say about the present strength of the Ghostbusters franchise? In a vacuum, it suggests that the movie is proving to be more popular than expected going into the opening weekend – but when factoring in key outside elements, the results are more of the “inconclusive” variety. Of course, the key title to compare Ghostbusters: Afterlife with is Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters from 2016… but that film made almost the exact same amount of money in its first three days ($46 million). It’s fair to assume that the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic took a bite out of the new feature’s potential earnings, but at this stage in the game we don’t have a metric that tells us what the movie could have made under normal circumstances.

Unlike a number of the big comic book blockbusters that have been getting released in the last few months, one big advantage that Ghostbusters: Afterlife has in financial terms is that it wasn’t made with an outrageous nine-digit budget. Variety says that the film was made for a more modest $75 million (before marketing and publicity), and that puts it on a good road toward making a real profit. In addition to the $44 million brought in domestically, The Numbers is reporting that the total gross has been padded with an additional $16 million from foreign markets. That means to date it has earned $60 million, and it could get a nice bump from the mid-week holiday coming up (but we’ll get more into that at the end of this piece).

The power of Will Smith and strong reviews didn’t quite help King Richard become a box office win.

While Ghostbusters: Afterlife had a weekend worth celebrating after exceeding expectations, sadly opposite is the case for the other new wide release from this past Friday: Reinaldo Marcus Green’s King Richard. At the end of last week, Deadline suggested that the film, playing in over 3,000 locations in the United States and Canada, was going to be able to make $10 million, but as you can see in the chart above, it only succeeded in making about half of that – earning $5.7 million in its first three days.

This is a case where it’s not precisely hard to figure out what went wrong, as it surely all ties in to Warner Bros. hybrid release strategy in 2021 – putting films in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously. The distribution model mostly worked last month when Dune was released, as that is a title that specifically demands to be seen on the big screen, but that isn’t a cinematic quality specifically possessed by the Will Smith-led drama about the rise of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. It’s impossible to imagine that this isn’t a case where streaming availability had the effect of diminishing ticket sales, as movie-fans opted to watch King Richard at home instead of making an excursion out into the world.

It would be easier to judge this case if Warner Bros. were to officially reveal subscriber and/or traffic data for the new release, but, as per usual, they haven’t. The only numbers we have to look at are those that put King Richard in fourth place for its opening weekend, and it’s not a great look.

Eternals takes another big dip while still holding on to second place.

While the new Will Smith movie wasn’t able to earn eight figures the last few days, Chloé Zhao’s Eternals did – though the film isn’t precisely on a great trend right now. The Marvel blockbuster has followed its 62 percent dip last time around with another 60 percent dip this week, and that’s a bad sign for its legs. To make a direct comparison, Eternals made nearly the same amount of money as Destin Daniel Cretton’s Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings when it first came out ($71.3 million vs. $75.4 million), but there is a big gap when comparing their earnings in their respective third weekends. While the Simu Liu-led action-adventure made $21.7 million in that frame, the latest MCU release made almost exactly half of that.

With Disney now turning its marketing attention toward Walt Disney Animation’s Encanto, and franchise focus now looking ahead to the release of Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: No Way Home, we may start to see Eternals fading fast in the Top 10. To date it has made $336.1 million globally, and we’ll have to wait and see where its total ends up by the time it is done playing on the big screen.

As alluded to earlier, Thanksgiving week is now upon us, and that very well mean a lot of families coming together and making excursions to their local cinemas. Greeting them on the big screen will be a host of new releases, including the aforementioned Encanto, Ridley Scott’s House Of Gucci, and Johannes Roberts' Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City (all of which are set to come out on Wednesday). Be sure to head back here to CinemaBlend next Sunday to discover how the new releases shake up the Top 10.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.