Ghostbusters: Afterlife nabbed the top spot at the box office in its first weekend, with a $44 million three-day haul. That’s more than $3 million higher than Friday’s weekend estimates, and significantly better than the $30 million figure that was being projected ahead of release. Directed by Oscar-nominee Jason Reitman, Afterlife is the second reboot of the iconic comedy franchise, which was spearheaded by his father, Ivan Reitman.

The senior Reitman serves as a producer on Afterlife, which introduces a new set of characters while at the same time paying homage to original cast members Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, and Annie Potts. The film’s nostalgia-heavy tone has been widely compared to that of Netflix’s Stranger Things, with which it shares cast member Finn Wolfhard.

The $44 million debut means that Afterlife came within just $2 million of the opening weekend tally that the much-maligned all-female Ghostbusters reboot registered in 2016. But that film reportedly cost twice as much as Afterlife, and was cursed with some of the most rotten pre-release buzz in history. Afterlife, on the other hand, was given a stellar “A” CinemaScore grade by opening day audiences, vindicating the bullish marketing strategy that Sony had adopted for the film, screening it for the press weeks ahead of release.

Don Lee in Eternals
Image via Disney

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This is also a win for Reitman, who, after a string of awards-friendly releases, directed projects that have all but faded from cultural consciousness.

Marvel’s worst-reviewed film, Eternals, slipped to the number two spot after two weekends at the top of the charts. Eternals made $10.8 million this weekend, taking its running domestic total to $135 million. Worldwide, the film stands at just over $300 million. It’s been a difficult time for theatrical releases this year, but this simply isn’t a good enough performance for a Marvel Cinematic Universe film directed by an Oscar-winner and starring a bunch of internationally-recognized actors.

Keep in mind that films such as No Time to Die and Venom: Let There Be Carnage—both considered to have underperformed as compared to their predecessors—have fared better internationally than any MCU film released this year. It remains to be seen if Disney and Marvel can save face with December’s Spider-Man: No Way Home.

The number three spot went to Clifford the Big Red Dog, based on the popular Scholastic book series of the same name. The film added another $8.1 in its second weekend of release, pushing its domestic total to $33.5 million. The similarly-targeted Tom & Jerry live-action/animation film concluded its international run with over $130 million worldwide, despite a simultaneous release on HBO Max. That should be the benchmark for Clifford.

Speaking of HBO Max, the streaming service appears to have affected the box office performance of King Richard, the second major new release of the week. Starring Will Smith as Richard Williams, the father of tennis icons Venus and Serena Williams, the Warner Bros. movie made $5.7 million in its opening weekend. Although there’s an argument to be made about the lack of popular appeal of tennis films, WB’s controversial release strategy is perhaps the biggest culprit behind King Richard bombing so resoundingly. The day-and-date model has already claimed the lives of The Suicide Squad, Malignant, In the Heights and Reminiscence—just to name four—and it’ll be interesting to observe if next month’s hugely anticipated The Matrix Resurrections performs closer to these films, or the next one on our list.

Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve, is one of the few WB movies of the year that didn’t fall prey to the studio’s day-and-date release model. Successfully sold as a big screen experience, the sprawling science fiction film made $3 million this weekend, pushing its domestic total to within touching distance of the $100 million mark domestically. WB has already greenlit a sequel to the $165-budgeted film, based on the strength of its performance at the box office and on streaming.

Next weekend sees the release of Ridley Scott’s second film of the year, House of Gucci. It’ll be interesting to observe if it fares better than the director’s The Last Duel, which remains one of the most notable big-budget bombs of the year.

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