Moviegoers Will Call 'Ghostbusters' This Weekend

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This weekend will see the release of what may be the most talked-about movie of the summer, Sony's "Ghostbusters." Sony is in need of fresh franchises, and so will be eager to spin whatever number the reboot opens to as a success. The studio, however, will probably not be able to claim a No. 1 opening, as "The Secret Life of Pets" is set to take the box office crown once more. Further down the charts, "The Infiltrator," the Broad Green Pictures flick that opened on Wednesday, should have a muted first weekend. Together, the top twelve should make about $170 million, down 19% from last weekend and about 5% from the same weekend last year.

Although "Ghostbusters" will definitely be the big story of the weekend, the No. 1 spot is still likely to go to Universal's "The Secret Life of Pets," although it could be a squeaker. After breaking out with a $104 million opening last weekend, "Pets" should continue to be the top attraction for family audiences. Illumination Entertainment films are normally a little more front-loaded than other animated movies, so a weekend drop of around 50% wouldn't be surprising. However, "Pets" is benefiting from great word-of-mouth and a lack of family competition in the marketplace (outside of "Finding Dory"), so there's a chance it could have a similar second-weekend drop to "The Jungle Book," which fell 40% in its second weekend. This box office analyst is going for the more conservative estimate: look for "Pets" to make $52 to $55 million this weekend, raising its total to about $205 million through its first ten days.

"Ghostbusters" may not end up being the most attended film of the summer, but it has certainly been the most discussed, especially given its cast of female protagonists instead of the male stars featured in the original. As a result, the film has sparked intense online debate ever since it was announced, with a few ill-developed carpers claiming that the movie will ruin their childhood. That kind of over-the-top backlash has afforded the film a whole lot of free media attention, which could be a good thing for the reboot in the long run. There's no such thing as bad publicity, and most of the general public therefore has the film on their radar.

The question is whether people want to spend the money to see the movie. "Ghostbusters" has reportedly attracted strong interest among older women, but interest among men is lacking. Sony has tried to combat the lack of male interest with NBA Finals TV spots featuring Kobe Bryant as a Ghostbuster, but the jury's still out on whether that marketing effort will actually get basketball fans into the theaters.

More likely to attract audiences is the film's stellar cast, which includes key players such as Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Chris Hemsworth. McCarthy is one of the most bankable comedy actresses working right now, with the last five comedies she's headlined opening to an average of $30 million. Of course, all of those movies were much cheaper than "Ghostbusters," which carries a hefty $144 million budget. Wiig and Hemsworth are sure to attract their fans as well, although the latter is not a proven box office draw outside of the Marvel movies.

Ultimately, what will decide the box office fate of "Ghostbusters" is just how curious people are to be a part of the discussion. The film is not only a piece of escapist entertainment, it is also a potential talking point about women in comedy, the sacredness of classic movies and perhaps the state of the film industry as a whole. The safe bet is on moviegoers wanting to be a part of that discussion, as nobody likes to get left out of the zeitgeist. Expect "Ghostbusters" to scare up a stellar $47 to $50 million weekend, putting the film in a good position to surpass its budget by the end of its domestic run.

"The Legend of Tarzan" and "Finding Dory" should find themselves in a close race this weekend, as they have for the previous two frames. As was the case last weekend, "Tarzan" should eke out a small lead by the time Sunday wraps up. Expect both movies to make roughly $12 to $13 million, raising the total of "Tarzan" to $105 million and the total of "Dory" to just below $450 million.

The top five should be rounded out by "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates," which should hold well despite competition from "Ghostbusters." The raunchy comedy is playing to a younger audience who might not be interested in a reboot of an '80s classic. The film has enjoyed solid daily holds thus far, and should enjoy a drop below 40% this weekend. Expect the movie to make $10 to $11 million for the weekend, raising its total to $35 million through its first week and a half.

Opening outside of the Top 5 will be Bryan Cranston's crime thriller "The Infiltrator." The film has gotten so-so reviews, which is bad news for a film aimed at adult audiences. Fans of the AMC series "Breaking Bad" may check out Cranston's return to the crime genre, but they won't propel the film to box office success. Broad Green Pictures, the film's distributor, has only released one other movie into wide release in its history, a fact which doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. The quiet buzz and Wednesday opening of "The Infiltrator" makes it seem likely that it will struggle to infiltrate past the $5 million in its first weekend.

A weekend recap will be posted on Monday with studio estimates.

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