'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' Had a Worse Opening Weekend Than the All-Female Reboot Did

The 2016 all-female reboot of Ghostbusters managed to become one of the most controversial films of that year, with some online fans waging a sexism-fueled war against the Melissa McCarthy comedy. That film was also widely reported to be a flop, as promotion costs stopped it from breaking even.

And yet the math is simple: The 2016 movie had a better opening weekend than Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the 2021 all-kids reboot.

Let's look at that math (numbers courtesy Box Office Mojo). Released on July 15, 2016 in the United States, the film brought in a little over $46 million on its opening weekend in the U.S. box office, as well as $19.1 million across three key international territories (the U.K., Australia and Brazil). That's a total of $65.1 million in 2016 cash, and $75 million adjusted for inflation.

In comparison, Ghostbusters: Afterlife brought in $44 million domestic and $16 million international, for a total of $60 million. And that is across more theaters too: Afterlife opened in 4,315 theaters compared to the 3,963 Ghostbusters (2016) was seen in. Of course, the 2016 version wasn't up against a global pandemic, which has depressed theater turnout, and right now we only have an estimate of Afterlife's opening weekend.

But unless there has been a big accounting error, Ghostbusters (2016) brought in more money in fewer theaters than the 2021 revival in its opening weekend.

In fact, the 2016 Ghostbusters still has the best opening weekend of any Ghostbusters movie. It beat the 1984 original, which brought in $13.6 million ($36.1 million adjusted for inflation) domestic, plus the $65.7 million adjusted for inflation that Ghostbusters II earned in its first weekend ($29.5 million in 1989 money).

The 2016 Ghostbusters was also better received by critics. The movie is currently sitting at 62 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to the 62 percent given to Afterlife. (In case you were interested, Ghostbusters [1984] is at 97 percent and Ghostbusters II at 53 percent).

If the 2016 version had a better opening weekend than the 2021, why was the former thought of as a disappointment when the latter has been reported as a triumph? There could arguably be some misogyny at play there, as well as the racism that saw star Leslie Jones temporarily leave Twitter, but it is also due to the wider box office.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife dominated its opening weekend, reaching No. 1 in the chart and taking in more than the rest of the top 10 combined. 2016 Ghostbusters, in comparison, came in second behind The Secret Life of Pets, which took in $50.1 million in its second week in the charts.

Marketing and Production Costs

Though Ghostbusters (2016) had a robust opening weekend, Sony said that due to the combined marketing and production costs, it would have to make $300 million to break even—a target it missed by $70 million.

Part of the reason for this is that the all-female Ghostbusters was unable to continue its momentum in subsequent weeks. Of the three Ghostbusters films that have had a full theatrical run, it was the least profitable, with the 1984 film taking in $296.6 million ($789.5 adjusted for inflation) and the 1989 sequel taking in $215.4 ($480.5 million). It remains to be seen where Ghostbusters: Afterlife will fall in this ranking.

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Promo images for (left) "Ghostbusters" (2016) and "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" (2021). Sony