Weekend Box Office Forecast: Ghostbusters: Afterlife and King Richard

Photo Credits: Sony & Columbia ("Ghostbusters: Afterlife"); Warner Bros. ("King Richard")

Friday Update: Sony reported on Friday morning that Ghostbusters: Afterlife earned $4.5 million from domestic preview screenings. The studio has not yet confirmed whether or not that includes Wednesday’s IMAX grosses or if it represents Thursday alone.

Assuming it includes both, that figure lines up with expectations that factored into our final forecast below. By comparison, No Time to Die grabbed $6.231 million from combined Wednesday IMAX and general Thursday previews last month. The Afterlife take also isn’t far behind Dune‘s $5.1 million Thursday haul or A Quiet Place Part II‘s $4.8 million.

Notably, the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters posted $3.4 million from Thursday previews in the middle of summer before going on to a $46 million weekend. Afterlife‘s higher showing, family friendly appeal, and presumably strong weekend performance due to the time of year bode well for coming close to or exceeding that weekend performance.

Thursday Report: One of the last remaining tentpoles whose immediate release was disrupted by the global pandemic last year is finally hitting movie theaters this weekend as Ghostbusters: Afterlife hopes to conjure some pre-Thanksgiving box office success.

The film was originally slated to open in June of 2020 before — like A Quiet Place Part II, F9, Black Widow, No Time to Die and others — it was shuffled down the release calendar multiple times throughout 2020 and early 2021. Prior to COVID-19 shutdowns, the film was already widely anticipated by fans of the classic 1980s franchise thanks to director Jason Reitman’s promise of a return to series roots with a direct continuation of the universe started by his father, Ivan, alongside Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and the entire ensemble.

A family-friendly, Spielberg-ian return to the brand has always been seen as a potential strength. Where 2016’s all-female team approach won over some fans, it was a divisive entry that courted a strict comedic tone and ultimately led to an underwhelming box office run.

As discussed in our recent long range report, that will be a challenge for Afterlife to overcome — as will the fact that most kids remain unvaccinated and/or haven’t reached the two-week immunization window yet. This is a generational brand, and parents with young ones may remain hesitant to get back into theaters even with something as familiar and nostalgic as the Ghostbusters property.

Then again, it could be just the kind of all-audience movie timed with a long holiday break that moves the sentiment needle ever so closer back in favor of exhibition.

Reviews are somewhat unexpectedly leaning mixed, though still mostly positive. For months, advance screenings throughout at gatherings such as CinemaCon drove internal industry buzz that this would be a giant crowd-pleaser. That’s still likely to be the case, but a 66 percent Rotten Tomatoes score isn’t quite what was expected a few months ago and provides some reason for cautious optimism.

Regardless, this is seemingly strategized to be a movie that attracts an audience over time thanks to its family appeal, star Paul Rudd (now a household mainstay for all ages thanks to his Marvel credentials), and a strong young cast featuring heavily in marketing. That’s a combination of elements which films like No Time to Die and Dune didn’t quite boast (although each have posted solid box office runs strictly in terms of staying power) after their fan-driven ticket sales weren’t backed up by as much materialization of the wider swath of the general public turning out as once hoped.

Afterlife has trended similarly to those adult male-driven films with a strong surge of sales and social media traction, only to flatten out in recent days and weeks. Again, however, this is a film built to play across a wider variety of ages. Timed one week before the extended Thanksgiving holiday could result in a back-loaded run, especially with no true live-action tentpoles set to release again until the middle of December. Walk-up business could be significant, especially if word of mouth delivers the goods.

As always, where opening weekend lands will greatly depend on how much of the casual audience returns with pandemic considerations and the forthcoming holiday week in mind. Barometers for success are varied, with Sony itself projecting $27 million to $28 million this weekend. Our models indicate that to be a very conservative expectation.

Afterlife began IMAX previews on Wednesday evening, followed by a 4pm preview rollout in an estimated 3,450 locations on Thursday and wide release at 4,315 locations on Friday. The film has a full PLF footprint, IMAX included, for its first weekend and is exclusive to movie theaters.

Also opening this weekend is Warner Bros.’ latest hybrid pic, King Richard. Typically, a feel-good sports drama starring Will Smith would be the kind of film with “sleeper hit” status written all over it (especially heading into award season).

Unfortunately, though, the studio hasn’t had much luck at the box office with recent adult-driven dramas as The Many Saints of Newark, Cry Macho, and Reminiscent were each cannibalized by free at-home streaming availability and a still somewhat cautious adult audience. Both of those variables remain in play for King Richard.

On the upside, however, King Richard carries a strong 92 percent critics’ score in its arsenal. Alongside Smith himself, whose pop culture and social media presence has been renewed in recent times thanks to the release of his memoir, Will, this could also be a title that helps nudge a little more of the over-35 audience to make their return to theaters over the holiday corridor.

Wide Release Forecast Ranges

Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Opening Weekend Range: $35 – 55 million

King Richard
Opening Weekend Range: $5 – 10 million

Weekend Forecast

Boxoffice projects a 27 to 37 percent increase for this weekend’s top ten films from last weekend’s $65.9 million top ten aggregate.

Film Distributor 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, November 21 Location Count % Change from Last Wknd
Ghostbusters: Afterlife Sony Pictures / Columbia $44,000,000 $44,000,000 4,315 NEW
Eternals Disney / Marvel Studios $11,800,000 $136,600,000 4,055 -56%
Clifford the Big Red Dog Paramount Pictures $9,500,000 $34,900,000 3,628 -43%
King Richard Warner Bros. Pictures $7,600,000 $7,600,000 3,302 NEW
Dune Warner Bros. Pictures $3,300,000 $98,400,000 2,467 -40%
No Time to Die MGM / EON / United Artists Releasing $2,800,000 $154,800,000 2,407 -38%
Venom: Let There Be Carnage Sony Pictures / Columbia $2,600,000 $206,300,000 2,230 -34%
Ron’s Gone Wrong 20th Century Studios $1,300,000 $22,500,000 1,520 -41%
Belfast Focus Features $1,100,000 $3,500,000 584 -38%
The French Dispatch Searchlight Pictures $1,000,000 $13,300,000 805 -43%

All forecasts are subject to revision before the first confirmation of Thursday previews or Friday estimates from studios or official sources.

Theater counts are updated as confirmed by studiosThe above table does not necessarily represent the top ten as some studios do not finalize weekend location counts and/or an intent to report box office returns prior to publishing.

Photo Credits: Sony & Columbia ("Ghostbusters: Afterlife"); Warner Bros. ("King Richard")