By Pamela McClintock
One of summer’s most anticipated — and debated — movies is taking shape in terms of its box-office potential.
Sony’s Ghostbusters popped up on tracking Thursday, with early estimates suggesting a North American debut in the $40 million to $50 million range over the July 15-17 weekend. The studio, which has yet to wage its biggest and final marketing push, is no doubt hoping for the higher end, considering the movie cost a hefty $154 million to make.
Helmer Paul Feig ignited a firestorm in some social media circles when casting all women — Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones — as the Ghostbusters. In the original 1984 film, the supernatural investigators were famously played by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Harold Ramis.
More than any other director in Hollywood, Feig has focused on making femme-centric films in recent years, including the runaway hit Bridesmaids. And he has blamed geek culture for attacking his Ghostbusters simply because women are the stars.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Sony movie studio chief Tom Rothman went even further, saying the controversy is “the greatest thing that ever happened.” He added, “Are you kidding me? We’re in the national debate, thank you. Can we please get some more haters to say stupid things?”
Females over the age of 25 are by far the most interested in seeing the new Ghostbusters, according to those with access to prerelease tracking. However, Sony has three weeks left to whip up additional interest among males and younger females.
To date, The Heat marks Feig’s biggest opening at the domestic box office with $39.1 million. McCarthy starred opposite Sandra Bullock in the 2013 comedy, which grossed $159.6 million domestically and $230 million worldwide.
Wiig and McCarthy also starred in Feig’s Bridesmaids, the R-rated 2001 sleeper hit that debuted to $26.2 million domestically on its way to grossing $169.1 million in North America and $288.4 million worldwide.
Feig’s last film, Spy, likewise starring McCarthy, bowed to $29.1 million in summer 2015 on its way to earning $235.7 million worldwide.
Ghostbusters is Feig’s most ambitious movie to date in terms of scope and budget, and will have to do notably better than his previous efforts to land in the black. Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy, for instance, cost far less to make than Ghostbusters, which hopes to relaunch the spooky film franchise.