By Lindsey Bahr, AP Film Writer
Busting ghosts is still a fairly lucrative business after almost 40 years.
Heading into Thanksgiving weekend, the latest attempt to revive “Ghostbusters” drew a sizable audience to theaters, while the awards darling “King Richard,” like most dramas in the pandemic era, is struggling.
With a reverence for nostalgia and a few high-profile cameos in its arsenal, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” opened above industry expectations with $44 million in ticket sales from 4,315 locations, according to studio estimates Sunday. The Sony movie is playing exclusively in theaters.
“Afterlife’s” first weekend is actually trailing that of Paul Feig’s “Ghostbusters” with Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, which had a $46 million opening in June 2016. Aside from the somewhat unpredictable pandemic-era moviegoing habits, the crucial difference is that “Afterlife” cost about half as much to make.
The weekend’s other high-profile offering didn’t fare as well. “King Richard,” the well-reviewed drama starring Will Smith as the father of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams, earned $5.7 million from 3,302 locations, missing its modest expectations by almost half. The Warner Bros. film was released simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters.
Although traditional blockbusters have managed to draw decent audiences, dramas have disproportionately struggled during the pandemic. Most have debuted in the $3 million range. One of the more successful launches was the Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect,” which opened to $8.8 million.
Meanwhile, in limited release from A24, Mike Mills’ “C’mon C’mon” had one of the best limited platform debuts since February 2020 with $134,447 from 5 screens. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as man looking after his 9-year-old nephew.