'Ghostbusters' fails to overtake 'Secret Life of Pets' at the box office

Who you gonna call? Apparently not “Ghostbusters.”

Sony’s modern, big-budget reboot of the classic franchise failed to take over the weekend box office. One of the most polarizing films of the summer movie season — even before it premiered — the picture took in an estimated $46 million in the U.S and Canada, coming in below some analyst projections of $50 million. The studio projected a more conservative $38 million to $40 million.

“We’re very happy with our results,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s distribution chief. “It’s a terrific start for us. Everybody brought their A game, and it paid off.”

Such a performance is respectable, but not outstanding, as the Paul Feig-directed comedy holds a $144-million price tag, after tax rebates, according to the studio.

“Ghostbusters” stars Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones as the titular team that must save New York City from an onslaught of paranormal activity. “Thor’s” Chris Hemsworth delivers a comedic turn as a hunky, dimwitted secretary.

The film, a reboot of the 1984 picture starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson, faced misogynistic criticism online for its new twist with an all-female cast. Additionally, the first trailer, when released in March, was widely panned on YouTube, where it reportedly became the most “disliked” movie trailer in the site’s history. People even flooded its IMDB page with poor ratings. Whether that had a negative effect on the film’s performance is too early to tell, Bruer said, opting for a long-game vision.

“What you have to see is where does it end up,” he said. “I think certainly there were hurdles that we had to push through, and there was definitely challenges in regards to the naysayers of it all, but we always knew we were bringing it.”

Audiences, 54% of which were female, and critics appear to like the movie, however — once they’ve seen it. Moviegoers gave “Ghostbusters” a B-plus CinemaScore (those younger than 25 gave it an A-minus), while 73% of Rotten Tomatoes critics rated it favorably.

Still, the film will need to do strong business throughout the rest of the summer at home — as many of Feig’s films do — and overseas to justify the large budget and generate a sequel. That looks to be tough, however, with reports that “Ghostbusters” may not get a China release because of the country’s ban on pop culture that promotes “cults or superstitious beliefs.”

Bruer said that a China release is “still a work in progress” and that there is “still a chance.” Showing in the country is “very desirable and you want it,” he said, but “you can’t count on it.”

The original “Ghostbusters” eventually generated more than $240 million in ticket sales from the U.S. and Canada and was nominated for two Oscars (visual effects and original song).

Maintaining the top spot at the box office was “The Secret Life of Pets,” from Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures. The computer-animated adventure added an impressive estimated $50.6 million in its second week. The amount, added to the film’s massive debut for a domestic gross, brings its total to $203.2 million.

Though the film waits to open in 57 more countries over the next three months, including in China on Aug. 2., it already has grossed $50.8 million internationally.

Coming in third place this week was Warner Bros.’ “The Legend of Tarzan,” with $11.1 million in its third week. The live-action remake of the classic jungle tale has grossed an estimated $103.1 domestically. After taking in $22 million this weekend internationally, the film’s international gross is $90.6 million.

Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Dory” continues to break records. After landing in fourth this week, with $11 million, the picture now stands as the highest-grossing animated release domestically, with an estimated $445.5 million. It passed Shrek 2’s” long-held record, made in 2004, of $441.2 million. Internationally, the film has taken in an estimated $276.2 million for a global cumulative of $721.7 million.

This result has helped push the year-to-date for Walt Disney Studios past $2 billion domestic. It’s the fastest this mark has been reached in industry history.

Twentieth Century Fox’s “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates,” in fifth place, took home an estimated $7.5 million in its second week. The R-rated comedy has grossed $31.3 million domestically.

The week’s only other new wide release, Broad Green Pictures’ “The Infiltrator,” pulled in an estimated $5.3 million for an eighth-place finish. Such a performance is continued bad news for the studio following a weak performance of “The Neon Demon.”

“The Infiltrator” stars Bryan Cranston as an undercover federal agent attempting to infiltrate the trafficking network of a Colombian drug kingpin.

As for notable limited releases, “Cafe Society,” a partnership between Lionsgate and Amazon Studios, grossed $355,000 on five screens in New York and Los Angeles. That per-screen average of $71,000 is the biggest per-screen opening weekend of all films in 2016. The film is the latest from Woody Allen, about love in 1930s Hollywood and New York.

“We’re really pleased about the initial weekend of ‘Cafe Society,’ ” said Bob Berney, Amazon’s head of marketing and distribution. “Woody Allen’s romantic trip to Hollywood and Manhattan of the ’30s is a great film that audiences are adoring.”

Next week, major new releases include Fox’s latest addition to the “Ice Age” franchise, “Ice Age: Collision Course,” Warner Bros.’ horror flick “Lights Out” and Paramount’s “Star Trek: Beyond.”

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