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‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ scares up a solid opening at the box office

By Frank Pallotta, CNN Business

In 1984, “Ghostbusters” became one of the most popular comedies in film history. Now, nearly four decades later, audiences answered the call at the ticket booth for a new sequel in the spooky franchise.

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” — which stars Paul Rudd, Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard — took in an estimated $44 million at the North American box office this weekend. That’s a solid start for the comedy and exceeded expectations that had the film making closer to $30 million.

The opening is good news for Sony, the film’s studio, which is attempting to end 2021 on a hot streak. The studio had a hit in October thanks to “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” — which is one of the most successful movies of the year — and followed that up in November with “Afterlife.”

Sony could also have the biggest blockbuster of 2021 next month with “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

“The ‘Ghostbusters” brand proves to be a resilient one with a well thought out reboot do-over and audiences enthusiastically went along for the ride,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, told CNN Business.

“Afterlife” notching a strong opening makes sense considering that the original film in the series is a beloved phenomenon that made $227 million domestically in 1984. (That’s more than $600 million today when accounting for inflation.)

Sony sold “Afterlife” with a lot of nostalgia from that film including bringing back popular characters and iconography. That strategy seemingly worked well for the studio this weekend.

“Afterlife” was also able to find an audience despite being hampered by the ongoing pandemic and lackluster critical reviews. The film nabbed mixed reviews which led to a 62% score on review site, Rotten Tomatoes.

For theaters, the opening for “Afterlife” also keeps momentum up from October, which was the strongest month at the box office so far this year.

Exhibitors are hoping audiences keep coming back as the historically lucrative holiday season kicks off next week. The Thanksgiving weekend will have Disney Animation’s “Encanto” and 20th Century Studios’ “House of Gucci” on the marquee.

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