Distributed by Columbia Pictures, the film premiered at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles on July 9, 2016, and was released in the United States on July 15, 2016, in 2D, 3D, RealD 3D and IMAX 3D. The film grossed $229 million worldwide against a production budget of $144 million, but due to the high budget and large amount spent on marketing, was considered a box office flop.
Physicists Abby Yates and Erin Gilbert are co-authors of a research book which posits the existence of paranormal phenomena, such as ghosts. Erin has disowned the work and become a professor at Columbia University, while Abby continues to study the paranormal at a technical college with eccentric engineer Jillian Holtzmann. Erin learns Abby has republished the book, threatening her bid for tenure at Columbia. She reunites with Abby and, in exchange for Abby removing the book from publication, agrees to assist her and Jillian in a paranormal investigation.
The group witness a malevolent ghost, restoring Erin's belief in the paranormal. However, a video of their investigation is posted online, and Erin is fired by the university. She joins Abby and Jillian's project, but when a new institute director learns its nature, he dismisses them. They open an office above a Chinese restaurant and call themselves the "Conductors of the Metaphysical Examination". They build equipment to study and capture ghosts, and hire the dimwitted but handsome Kevin Beckman as a receptionist.
MTA staffer Patty Tolan witnesses a ghost in a subway line and contacts the group. They document the ghost and successfully test Jillian's proton containment laser, but their findings are again dismissed. They continue to develop their technology and advertise their services as what pundits have dubbed the "Ghostbusters". Patty joins the team, providing historical knowledge of New York City and a repurposed hearse, "Ecto-1".
Unbeknownst to the Ghostbusters, the ghosts are being summoned by devices built by Rowan North, an occultist attempting to bring about the apocalypse. When Rowan plants another device at a live music venue, the Ghostbusters are called in and capture the ghost in front of the audience. When supernatural debunker Dr. Martin Heiss challenges the Ghostbusters, the incensed Erin releases the ghost as proof; it throws Heiss out of a window and escapes. The Ghostbusters are brought to Mayor Bradley and his secretary Jennifer Lynch, who reveal that the city and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are aware of New York's ghost problem. While privately supporting the team's work, the mayor's office and the DHS publicly denounce them as fraudsters.
The Ghostbusters realize that Rowan is planting his devices along ley lines, which intersect at the Mercado Hotel in Times Square, a site with a history of paranormal activity, and discover Rowan building a portal to the ghost dimension in the hotel basement. To avoid capture, Rowan electrocutes himself, after which Jillian deactivates the portal. Erin discovers a copy of her and Abby's book among Rowan's possessions and realizes that he killed himself so he could become a ghost and command a spirit army. Rowan returns as a powerful ghost, possessing Abby and then Kevin. As Kevin, he opens the portal and releases hundreds of ghosts. The police and DHS are subdued, but the Ghostbusters fight through the army of ghosts to reach the portal.
Rowan takes the form of the ghost in the Ghostbusters' logo, grows to enormous height, and attacks the city. The team devises a plan to use Ecto-1's nuclear reactor to close the portal and return the ghosts to their own dimension. The plan succeeds, but Rowan drags Abby into the portal with him; Erin leaps into the portal and rescues her as Rowan is obliterated. The mayor's office agrees to secretly fund the Ghostbusters' research while continuing to publicly denounce them as frauds. With new funding, the Ghostbusters move to a better facility, a disused fire house. New York lights up with thanks and tributes to the Ghostbusters. Patty listens to a recording of a ghost encounter and asks the others if they have heard of Zuul.
A bronze bust of Harold Ramis is seen in the hallway outside Dr. Gilbert's office, appearing when Dean Filmore leaves.
A third Ghostbusters film had been in various stages of development following the release of Ghostbusters II in 1989. Bill Murray, who played Ghostbuster Peter Venkman in the original films, was reluctant to participate as he felt Ghostbusters II had been lackluster and was critical of new scripts he had seen. Dan Aykroyd, who co-starred in and co-wrote the original films, stated that the studio was aware that "without Murray there may be nothing there" for a sequel, and was considering a way to bring on a newer generation of Ghostbusters. One script, Ghostbusters 3: Hellbent, written by Aykroyd in 1999, had Venkman leaving the Ghostbusters to spend time with Sigourney Weaver's character Dana Barrett; the remaining Ghostbusters, including a new younger member, fought souls that had been evicted from a hellish version of Manhattan known as Manhelltan. The Hellbent script was revised as Ghostbusters in Hell, with plans to replace Murray with Ben Stiller. The story had the Ghostbusters finding a portal to an alternate dimension in which "all the worst things about modern urban life" are "magnified"; traffic is stuck in perpetual gridlock and no two people speak the same language. Another story idea had Venkman transformed into a ghost.
The third film remained on the writing table for several years, during which Ghostbusters: The Video Game was developed by Terminal Reality and released in 2009. Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, cowriters of the original films, used the game to explore the Ghostbusters' history; all four original actors, including Murray, voiced their characters, along with other actors from the original films. Aykroyd considered the game to be "essentially the third movie". The game sold over a million units, prompting Columbia to move forward on the Ghostbusters franchise. Ramis stated that the new film would feature the original Ghostbusters but introduce new characters in a script written with Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, who had cowritten his 2009 comedy Year One. The movie was set to be filmed in 2010 and released in 2011.
Around March 2010, while the new script was being developed, Vulture reported that Columbia wanted to target a younger audience and that original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman was under pressure to step down in place of a younger director. New York reported that Reitman, along with Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis, had long-standing contracts in place with Columbia that effectively allow any of them to veto the development of a Ghostbusters film. Murray had told GQ in 2010 that he felt the script written by Eisenberg and Stupnitsky was poor and "that dream just vaporized", but said that Columbia was pressuring him to make it. Aykroyd defended the script, saying that it offered Murray "the comic role of a lifetime". The script languished as they tried to resolve the disagreement, and in January 2012 Aykroyd stated that the film was in "suspended animation" as Murray was still uncooperative. Aykroyd refused to recast the role as he would not make a film that "exploits the franchise". By July 2012, the Eisenberg/Stupnitsky script had been discarded and new writing staff were working on a script.
Murray's reluctance to commit to the project resulted in the decision to reboot the franchise instead. In 2012, Reitman suggested the option of a remake of the original Ghostbusters, allowing them to introduce a new cast. Reitman later stated he was working on a Ghostbusters reboot that would be filmed during 2013, with Etan Cohen, Aykroyd, and himself working on the script, confirmed by Aykroyd in mid-2013. Following Ramis's death in February 2014, Reitman decided to leave the director role in March 2014, wanting to focus on smaller projects, but remained a producer to help Columbia and Sony find a new director for the film. At this point, the script featured the original Ghostbusters in minor roles.
Variety and The Hollywood Reporter reported in August 2014 that Paul Feig had been selected as director and the reboot would feature an all-female cast. Feig formally announced the film and his involvement in October 2014, along with co-writer Katie Dippold, and confirmed his intention to have the film "star hilarious women". Feig stated that he was partly inspired by the TV series The Walking Dead, adding that his goal was to "tell a story you haven't seen before. Or tell a story you've seen before, but in a way you haven't seen it."
Feig said that Sony Entertainment's Amy Pascal had been pushing for comedy writers to produce a script for a new Ghostbusters film for some time, but he believed that most of these writers, like himself, did not want to ruin the canon of the original films. He also wanted to avoid a premise similar to Ghostbusters II, in which the Ghostbusters have to lose their success to begin a new story. This led to the idea of a reboot featuring a new set of characters, an idea that Pascal agreed with.
In January 2015, Feig confirmed his intention to use Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones in the lead roles. At that point, McCarthy had already committed to the film while Sony was in negotiations with the other three actresses. Emma Stone was approached to star but declined partly because she did not want to commit to a franchise. Cecily Strong, who appears in a supporting role, was also considered for a leading role. Aykroyd stated that he and his family were "delighted by this inheritance of the Ghostbusters torch by these most magnificent women in comedy."
Principal photography on the film began on June 17, 2015, in Boston. Feig and the set dressers Carolyn Lassek and Claudia Bonfe consulted with MIT physicists before shooting. On June 29, 2015, Feig tweeted the costumes of the four Ghostbusters. Filming also took place in Chinatown, Boston for a few days in early July 2015. On August 17, 2015, Hemsworth was spotted filming some scenes on the Ghostbusters bike. After finishing at the old Naval Air Station in South Weymouth, Massachusetts, filming began in Tribeca in New York City on September 12. On September 15, filming was taking place in Waltham MA. Filming also took place outside of Columbia University in New York. Filming wrapped on September 19, 2015, in New York City. The subway scenes were filmed on a sound stage, as there is no Seward Street station on the New York Subway map. Reshoots happened in Los Angeles in May 2016, and included new scenes that served as a metafictional comment on the Internet controversy the film gathered.
Six companies dealt with the 1,700 visual effects shots, under the supervision of Pete Travers. The main studios were Sony Pictures Imageworks, with 300 shots that included the climactic Times Square sequence and all the proton beams, Moving Picture Company (MPC), with 250 shots that centered around the final battle which included Rowan's monster form, and Australian company Iloura, with 500 shots encompassing various ghosts. While the majority of the work involved computer-generated imagery, there was an attempt to use various practical effects akin to the original movies, with Travers explaining it was done "not to pay homage, but because it was the best way to achieve the effect."
Stand-ins for the ghosts were created on the set for the actors to interact with, including actresses suspended by wires, drones as references for flying ghosts, a Slimer puppet and giant balloons for a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man parade balloon. As the ghosts in the film glow, the doubles were covered in light-emitting diodes to provide lighting references for the effects crew.
The climatic Times Square sequence, which starts with the antagonist proclaiming "Welcome to the glory days of New York City", used special effects to transform it into a bygone mix of stores, buildings and billboards dating back through the decades, including Bond Clothing Store, neon signs for the defunct airlines Braniff International Airways (ended in 1982) and BOAC (ended in 1974), billboards advertising the release of the 1976 film Taxi Driver and the 1971 film Isle of the Snake People and the 1962 to 1964 Broadway theatre production of Beyond the Fringe, a combination of the Sony, Canadian Club and Coca-Cola neon signs that light up Times Square in different eras, marquees for long departed Times Square movie theatres showing XXX films and the 1971 film Fists of Fury, and other chronological anachronisms.
Ghostbusters (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is the soundtrack album released on July 15, 2016, by RCA Records. It includes singles by Elle King, G-Eazy, and 5 Seconds of Summer.
Ghostbusters (Original Motion Picture Score) is the film score, composed by Theodore Shapiro. It was available for digital download on July 8, 2016, and released on CD on July 15, 2016, by Sony Classical Records.
All music composed by Theodore Shapiro.
Ghostbusters premiered at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles on July 9, 2016. It was theatrically released on July 11, 2016, in the United Kingdom and on July 15, 2016, in the United States. The film will not be released in the Chinese market, with sources reporting that China Film Group Corporation believed it was "not really that attractive to Chinese audiences ... Most of the Chinese audience didn't see the first and second movies, so they don't think there's much market for it here."
The first Ghostbusters trailer was released on March 3, 2016. It was viewed 24 million times in 24 hours on Facebook and YouTube, and more than 60 million times across all social media platforms in its first week. The logo Ghostbusters: Answer the Call was used in the third trailer. This was also seen in the film's end credits, but not in the opening title. Director Feig explained, "It was basically the studio realizing for the video catalogs, and that kind of thing, [there would be] two Ghostbusters. ... That sounded like Airport ‘77. The next year, you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s an old movie.’ I didn’t want to have to anchor with that, so they basically said they liked [Answer the Call]. ... I just said, ‘Don’t put it on the front of the movie. If you put it on the end, I don’t care.’”
Original Ghostbusters cast members Murray, Aykroyd, Hudson and Potts joined the new cast on the June 8, 2016, episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, which was entirely dedicated to the new film.
Sony partnered with Snapchat to promote the film with "busting" and "sliming" features. The filter, which features the Ghostbusters logo, allows users to shoot at the character Slimer with their front-facing cameras and a virtual proton pack. In addition, 10-second video teaser ads ran within Snapchat’s Discover section.
Ghostbusters was released on DVD, Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray and 4K on October 11, 2016. The Blu-ray version features an extended version of the film, which features the IMAX formatted version of the film, most prominently noted during action scenes and a wider scene where they go into the portal.
Ghostbusters grossed $128.3 million in North America and $100.8 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $229.1 million. With a production budget of $144 million, as well as a large amount spent on marketing, the studio stated that the film would need to gross at least $300 million to break even. Before the release, director Paul Feig stated "A movie like this has to at least get to like $500 million worldwide, and that’s probably low." The Hollywood Reporter estimated the film's financial losses would be over $70 million. A representative of Sony found this loss estimate to be "way off," saying: "With multiple revenue streams [...] the bottom line, even before co-financing, is not even remotely close to that number." According to Variety, sources familiar with the film's financing estimate the total loss to be about $75 million, of which, due to co-financing with Village Roadshow, Sony would lose about $50 million. Sony insiders have projected, along with co-financing, a total loss of about $25 million. Bloomberg News estimated the film lost $58.6 million. By August 2016, sources such as Forbes and The Wall Street Journal had begun calling Ghostbusters a box office bomb. The film's performance contributed to Sony taking a $1 billion writedown in January 2017.
In the United States and Canada, the film opened Friday, July 15, across 3,963 theaters, earning $17.2 million on its first day, including $3.4 million it made from Thursday preview screenings. The film ended up earning $46 million in its opening weekend, in line with industry projections, finishing second at the box office behind The Secret Life of Pets ($50.8 million). It procured the biggest opening weekend ever for director Feig and star Melissa McCarthy and was the biggest live-action comedy debut since Pitch Perfect 2 in May 2015. In its second weekend the film dropped 54% to $21 million (compared to the first film increasing in its sophomore week by 11%), dropping to 5th at the box office.
Outside North America, Ghostbusters earned $19.1 million in its opening weekend from a handful of markets on 3,900 screens. IMAX contributed $1 million from 105 IMAX screens. It had number one openings in the United Kingdom and Ireland ($6.1 million), Australia ($3.7 million) and Brazil ($2.2 million). It debuted at number one on the DVD and Blu-ray charts after its release on home media in North America.
In a June 2017 television appearance, Aykroyd blamed the film's underperformance on Feig. According to Aykroyd, Feig refused to shoot additional scenes requested by Aykroyd and Sony until test screenings demonstrated they were necessary, costing an additional $30-40 million in reshoots (although Sony claimed reshoots only cost $3-4 million). He wrote a few days later: "Paul Feig made a good movie and had a superb cast and plenty of money to do it. We just wish he had been more inclusive to the originators. It cost everyone as it is unlikely Kristen, Leslie, Melissa and Kate will ever reprise their roles as Ghostbusters which is sad."
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Ghostbusters has an approval rating of 73%, based on 316 reviews, with an average rating of 6.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Ghostbusters does an impressive job of standing on its own as a freewheeling, marvelously cast supernatural comedy—even if it can't help but pale somewhat in comparison with the classic original." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 60 out of 100, based on 52 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
Manohla Dargis of The New York Times praised the film as "that rarest of big-studio offerings—a movie that is a lot of enjoyable, disposable fun." In The Guardian, Nigel M. Smith awarded the film four out of five stars and wrote that the "mean-spirited reception to the film before anyone had seen it does not seem to have put a dampener on the movie itself. Fun oozes from almost every frame; likewise the energy of a team excited to be revolutionising the blockbuster landscape." Mike Ryan of Uproxx gave the film a positive review, praising the characters but feeling CGI was overused. J.R. Kinnard of PopMatters praised the performances and the lack of cynicism, but concluded that "it feels like a safe, flavorless recipe prepared from gourmet ingredients." The Village Voice said the film "suffers from the anxiety of influence" of the original, but praised the actors. Mara Reinstein of US Weekly gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4, commending its actors but criticizing its "lazy script that takes forever to get going" and "uninspired" action sequences.
Observer critic Mark Kermode awarded the film three out of five stars and wrote that "it would have been great to report that the finished film is good enough to shut the bigoted naysayers up once and for all ... The harsh truth is that it isn't", feeling that the film was "generally likeable but uneven." Richard Lawson, writing for Vanity Fair, said the film "spends so much time doing battle with its legacy that it forgets to be its own movie, putting a talented cast to waste and marking another disappointment in this dreadful summer movie season." James Berardinelli felt it was mediocre, and, like many recent comedies, "too long and not funny enough". Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one out of four stars, criticizing its acting, script, and "cheesy" special effects. In his radio review, Roeper said that the film was one of the worst movies of the year, rating it a D−.
Ghostbusters received criticism from social media users following word of Feig's involvement and the all-female cast, which some felt was a "gimmick". On its first day of release, the first trailer for the film collected 12,000 "likes" and 13,800 "dislikes" from YouTube viewers which, according to David Griner of Ad Week made it "one of the most polarizing in recent memory". By May 2016, the trailer had become the most disliked film trailer on YouTube and the ninth-most disliked YouTube video, with 280,000 likes to over one million dislikes. ScreenCrush described the reaction as a campaign "to downvote [the film] into oblivion" by "a certain subset of people on the internet [with] an unhealthy fixation with hating on the Ghostbusters remake". In one interview, Melissa McCarthy felt it was a "very, very, very tiny, tiny group of people" who were misogynistic. Other reasons proposed for the negative reaction to the trailer included a lack of interest in reboots, nostalgia for the original film, and a perceived lack of humor in the trailer.
Todd Martens of the Los Angeles Times suggested that fans felt "entitled" to a film that preserved the franchise as they imagined it. In an interview with Mashable, Ivan Reitman said “I think there’s way too much talk about gender [when it comes to this film]" and "I think that many of the people who were complaining were actually lovers of the [original] movie, not haters of women.” Some saw the portrayal of Leslie Jones' character, a "street-smart New Yorker", as a stereotype of African Americans. Jones responded to this criticism on Twitter writing, "Why can't a regular person be a Ghostbuster?" However, journalists from The Washington Post and The Atlantic stated that a majority of the criticism constituted misogynist and anti-feminist comments in regard to the all-female cast. Wiig was "bummed out" that "there was so much controversy because we were women." Feig said he believed a group of fans had "real issues with women. But there’s also a huge group of people who are just concerned about the property, and I completely understand. I’m completely sympathetic to that." In May 2016, additional scenes were shot for the film which served as a meta-reference to the Internet controversy. In those scenes, the characters upload a video to YouTube and react to unpleasant comments left by viewers.
Filmmaker James Rolfe, creator of the Angry Video Game Nerd series, declared that he would not see the new film and disliked how it was based in a new universe with no continuity to the previous films. Brooks Barnes of The New York Times and Daniel Friedman of Polygon considered Rolfe's views an example of "fan entitlement", criticising his haste to judge the film without seeing it and his lack of concern for other remakes of franchises he admired, such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Rolfe became the subject of personal attacks online for his position; according to commentators for The Washington Post, Salon, and Polygon, though Rolfe had not mentioned gender, many people considered his motivation misogynist. Richard Roeper's negative review of the film was also met with criticism on social media and from Salon, who accused him of male bias. Roeper responded: "How insulting would it be to give a film a pass because of good intentions and diversity in the casting? That’s not equal treatment; that’s condescension." Journalists from The Atlantic and NBC News saw the controversy as part of the culture war and gender divide engaged across social media. They, along with Feig, noted commonalities to the events and reactions of the Gamergate controversy in video games.
Following the release of the film, cast member Leslie Jones became the target of racist and sexist abuse on Twitter. A number of users, including Feig, showed support for Jones and criticized Twitter's handling of the situation. Feig tweeted: "Fuck the haters. And haters, attack me all you want but when you attack and insult my cast, you've crossed the line. Grow up and leave my cast alone." On July 19, Twitter suspended the account of the then Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos, who had criticized Jones, allegedly for abusive behavior over the previous 48 hours. Conversely, Jones and her character in the film were also accused of promoting negative stereotypes about black people.
After its opening weekend, Sony's president of worldwide distribution, Rory Bruer, told TheWrap that "while nothing has been officially announced, there's no doubt in my mind [a sequel] will happen." He also said that Ghostbusters is expected to become an important Sony franchise. The principal cast and director had signed on for two sequels.
On August 10, 2016, The Hollywood Reporter expressed doubts about a sequel due to the film's box office performance. Box office analyst Jeff Bock said, "I just can't fathom the creative talents behind it—Feig, McCarthy, Wiig, etc—slogging out another one when the reception to the first one was so mediocre."
In an October 2016 interview, Feig told Bustle that a sequel was not in the works, but could be possible if the film performed well on its home release. By November, Feig confirmed that a direct sequel would not be made due to the film's mediocre box office performance. The same month, Reitman stated in an interview that other Ghostbusters projects were in development. Prior to Reitman's announcement, an animated series, Ghostbusters: Ecto Force, was stated to be targeting an early 2018 debut. Reitman further clarified plans for future animated films within the Ghostbusters franchise during the July 2017 San Diego Comic Con, including having one set from the viewpoint of the ghosts rather than the Ghostbusters, as well as a work to potentially tie in to the 35th anniversary of the original film in 2019.
In December 2016, IDW Publishing announced that it would release a six-part limited series comic, Ghostbusters 101, featuring the original Ghostbusters teaming up with the 2016 team. The first issue was released in March 2017. A five issue limited series called Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, which continues the adventures of the 2016 team, was announced in July 2017 and is scheduled to begin in October.