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'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' scares up $44 million at the North American box office

The weekend's other major release, the tennis drama "King Richard," served up $5.7 million at domestic theaters.
Image: Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace and Logan Kim in "Ghostbusters: Afterlife." Kimberley French / Sony Pictures Entertainment

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” Sony’s latest attempt to resurrect the beloved 1980s movie franchise, grossed $44 million at the North American box office over the weekend.

The supernatural comedy also earned $16 million in 31 foreign markets, according to studio estimates Sunday. It is playing exclusively in theaters.

“Afterlife,” the fourth entry in the Ghostbusters saga and a sequel to 1989’s “Ghostbusters II,” attempts to introduce the franchise to a younger generation of viewers who were not reared on Blockbuster Video and other Generation X hallmarks.

The film stars Finn Wolfhard (“Stranger Things”), Mckenna Grace (“Troop Zero”), Carrie Coon (“Gone Girl”) and Paul Rudd (People’s Sexiest Man Alive) and features not-so-secret cameos from some of the first movie’s cast members.

“Afterlife" moves the action from New York City to a middle-of-nowhere town in Oklahoma, where two siblings discover a realm of ghosts, ghouls and demonically possessed Stay-Puft Marshmallow Men.

The movie was directed by Jason Reitman (“Juno”), whose father, Ivan Reitman, helmed the first two installments. Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”) oversaw the third installment, a female-led reboot that drew intense sexist and racist backlash before it even hit theaters in 2016.

“Afterlife” got mixed reviews from professional critics, some of whom have knocked it for being too slavishly devoted to the nostalgia of the Reagan-era originals.

“In trying to please everyone, ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ should ultimately please no one except the most hardcore of fans whose idea of a fun time at the movies is pointing at things they’ve seen before,” Tribune News Service critic Katie Walsh wrote.

The weekend’s other major release, the uplifting tennis drama “King Richard,” served up a modest $5.7 million from 3,302 locations — the latest sign that non-blockbuster dramas are struggling at the pandemic box office.

"Non-blockbuster dramas have had a tougher time gaining traction in this marketplace, particularly those aimed at more mature audiences who, when given the option, may opt to view these films at home," said Paul Dergarabedian, a media analyst at Comscore, which tracks box office data.

The movie, like other 2021 projects from Warner Bros., debuted simultaneously on HBO Max, which does not disclose viewership data.

"King Richard" also debuted in the United Kingdom, Russia and 28 other small overseas territories, where it grossed a total of $2.5 million from 2,111 screens, according to studio estimates.

“King Richard” stars Will Smith as Richard Williams, who relentlessly pushed his daughters Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) to the heights of athletic greatness. 

The biopic drew mostly positive reviews, and Smith is widely seen as a lock for a best actor nomination at next year’s Academy Awards. (He has been nominated twice before, for his roles in 2001’s “Ali” and 2006’s “The Pursuit of Happyness.”)

Entertainment Weekly critic Leah Greenblatt wrote that the movie “manages to be both a surprisingly nuanced portrait of a flawed and deeply complicated man and the kind of classic-uplift sports movie that used to fill multiplexes once upon a time.”