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Thinking outside the box office: 'Ghostbusters' looking to pummel some pooches

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Thinking outside the box office: 'Ghostbusters' looking to pummel some pooches

Fur is so in right now, animated fur that is.

"The Secret Life of Pets," like several other animatedcritter movies this year, managed to outstrip even the most bullish to set a record for an originalanimated debut, topping the previous $90.4 million record set by "Inside Out"in 2015.

"Pets" chewed up that total with a $103.2 million opening,compared to forecasts ranging from $70 million to $90 million. "Pets"is expected to give the box office competition a run for its money in its secondweekend as well, with the reboot of "Ghostbusters" scaring up its biggestchallenge.

BoxOffice.comexpects that "Pets" will make about $53.5 million over the weekend ofJuly 15, or $2.5 million below its estimate for "Ghostbusters." But otherforecasters, like Varietyfor instance, think "Pets" will spook the supernatural just enough forthe top spot. Sony Corp.believes "Ghostbusters" will take as much as $40 million, Variety notes, but third-party forecastersput it in a range of $45 million to $50 million. Those expectations are just shyof "Pets," which Variety believeswill collect around $55 million. DeadlineHollywood generally agrees with that outcome, putting "Pets" in arange of $50 million to $60 million and "Ghostbusters" no higher than$50 million.

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Source: Columbia Pictures

But "Ghostbusters" could surprise to the upside. Aftermoderating expectations with one of the least-liked YouTube trailers ever posted,pre-release acclaim has poured in for the film. Rotten Tomatoes early on gave the film a "Certified Fresh"rating, and it was running at an average score of 74% as of 5 p.m. ET July 14.

Sony's Columbia Pictures will be happy for the turn in sentiment,as the studio is taking a risk on the female-led reboot of a classic story focusedon a group of ghost-fighting men. But the cast of Saturday Night Live female leads(echoing the SNL-heavy male cast from the original 1984 version) has been gaininglots of stature lately, with breakout hit comedies like "Bridesmaids"and "Spy." If Sony can win the hearts of a new generation of ghost-lovers(or ghost haters?), then it could have a solid franchise opportunity for its studio.The title could even lose a little money, but if it garners a bit of an audiencefollowing and leads to a franchise, that could still represent a win for the company,one observer told Deadline.

Working against "Ghostbusters," other recent rebootsfrom the last millennium have not been particularly well received. Studios wantto latch onto the nostalgia prevalent among so-called "90s kids," buttheir efforts with titles like "Robocop," "Point Break" and"Total Recall" have fallen flat. Those films saw loss margins of 2.3%,58.2% and 46.8%, respectively. On average, a list of similar reboots tanked on anegative 35.0% margin after opening to a meager average of $18.8 million.

Projections put the new "Ghostbusters" well ahead ofthat average, and critics and audiences also seem to favor the movie more than thecomparable titles. The reboots of "Robocop,""PointBreak" and "TotalRecall" each registered deeply in the "rotten" on Rotten Tomatoes,with the new "Point Break" picking up a particularly pathetic 9% rating.

Sony took some criticism for its female slant in the reboot,but with popular names in the lead roles and solid accolades from critics, it couldbreak the losing streak for big-budget reboots.

Also debuting during the weekend of July 15, Broad Green Pictureswill try to cash in on the cult fascination with Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobarwith "The Infiltrator."

Starring Bryan Cranston, the middle-budget movie follows a U.S.customs agent who pegs a money-laundering scheme on Escobar.

Forecasts for the title are coming in as low as $4.3 millionfrom BoxOffice.com and as high as $8 million from Deadline. The film is faring OKamong critics, with a 64% rating on Rotten Tomatoesas of 5 p.m. ET July 14.

A group of five similar titles compiled by SNL Kagan — like "TheDeparted," "Donnie Brasco" and "The Lincoln Lawyer" — revealmixed results, averaging an 18.0% profit margin with three of those films in thered.

With an estimatedproduction budget of $47.5 million, "The Infiltrator" will have to hustleafter its low opening gross to leave theaters on a positive note.

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