Sony’s bad streak continues as Ghostbusters could lose the studio $50 million or more

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If you read my US box office report from yesterday, then you would know that the Paul Feig directed all-female Ghostbusters remake has dropped out of the top 10 charts after just 5 weeks. It’s currently sitting on a domestic gross of $121.68 million and total worldwide tally of $193.88 million. That is simply not enough when viewed against its $144 million price tag; a figure that you will need to at least double when you factor in advertising costs which Sony Pictures had to fork out as well. It would appear that busting was not making the studio feel good after all.

While not exactly must-see fare like previous team-ups between Feig and leading lady Melissa McCarthy, many reviewers, myself included, found the movie to be a lot more enjoyable than the dumpster fire disaster some of the trailers were showing it to be (it has a 73% Fresh rating on RottenTomatoes with an average score of 6.5). Of course, decent reviews don’t matter when half the internet is fully intent on hating you no matter what because you apparently ruined their childhoods, peed in their corn flakes, kicked their puppies and are actually retroactively responsible for the 2008 US housing collapse, all with the power of your lady parts.

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But whatever the reason for audiences not turning up for the remake, the fact remains that they just didn’t. And that is incredibly bad news for Sony, who was banking on this film being the big success they needed after still reeling from the investor fallout of the 2014 Sony hack, which saw all the studio’s dirty laundry aired for the public. On top of that, Sony had an atrocious 2015, filled with US box office bomb after box office bomb like The Interview, Concussion, The Walk, Aloha, Chappie, Ricki and The Flash, Pixels and more. In a year where Universal made $1.3 billion and Disney $1 billion in the US, Sony’s entire domestic box office receipts for 2015 totaled just $285 million. That’s $30 million less than the last Minions film made on its own.

And their 2016 wasn’t looking much better as The Brothers GrimsbyPride and Prejudice and Zombies, and The Fifth Wave all tanked domestically. In other words, Ghostbusters wasn’t just supposed to be a a huge tentpole feature bringing back a beloved franchise with some of the funniest actresses around today, it was supposed to be the start of a new franchise that would right all Sony’s financial woes. Except it’s just worsened them.

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According to Variety, if it stays on its current trajectory, Ghostbusters will finish its theatrical run having earned in the region of $240 million. It still needs to open in a few markets like Japan, Korea, Spain, France and Mexico, and the film’s toy merchandising has been a surprise success, but anyway you cut it, that’s a loss. How much of a loss? Well, that’s not entirely easy to say as studios often don’t disclose exact advertising figures, but according to sources we’re looking at it being about $75 million in the red, if not more as insiders claim the film’s reported $144 million production budget to actually be a lot higher. Sony has several co-financing deals set up with smaller production companies, which means that loss gets spread around bit, but the studio itself will probably have to write off about $50 million of its own cash on this one, if not more. Village Roadshow, who had one quarter stake in the film, will be about $25 million out of pocket.

Sony suits are still desperately trying to spin this in a good light though, with one spokesperson indicating that “We couldn’t be more proud of the incredible movie that Paul Feig made,” and another saying that it “has reignited a 30-year-old brand and put it into the modern zeitgeist. As a result, we have many ideas to further exploit the Ghostbusters universe.”

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That last bit about “many ideas to further exploit the Ghostbusters universe” is the most telling of the bunch, as it appears that Sony’s plans for a new feature film franchise has now been thoroughly slimed. Instead, it appears as if the studio might want to retool this as an animated feature film and/or animated TV series spinoff in 2019. You may recall that there were already talks of an unrelated animated Ghostbusters feature film before this movie got released, so expect those to start heating up again, but possibly now incorporate the new characters instead. Hey, they have to keep up those action figure sales somehow to at least salvage something from this!

 

Last Updated: August 17, 2016

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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