3 Lessons From the Box Office Failure of Ghostbusters 2016

Courtesy: Funny or Die

Courtesy: Funny or Die

by Legendary Lew

The news is now out that the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters is a box office failure. Reports are coming in that the Sony Pictures feature, directed by Paul Feig, will end up as much as $75 million in the red.

Finger-pointing is bound to bubble up like the flasked, hate-laced goo in Egon’s laboratory and, indeed, it may be signaled by Feig’s promise to never direct any future classic movie reboots.

Well-covered on social media is the tussle between pro and anti- 2016 Ghostbusters, sliming each other with accusations of misogyny, racism and shameless pandering to women. After Cinemassacre’s James Rolfe posted a video stating he would not watch the 2016 Ghostbusters based on what he perceived (along with 1,000,000+ viewers) as a poor trailer, he was attacked in social media unfairly as being misogynist. Coming to his defense was Comic Book Girl 19 making some very good points about how the criticisms against Rolfe were misguided. About halfway during her video, she brings up more valid points regarding Sony Pictures and its enterprise, so I urge you to watch her video as it’s really worth watching:

I would like to go further, however, because we’re now wading through another flood of social media outrage on Twitter, this time over remaking Ocean’s Eleven as the new release, Ocean’s Eight, with women in the leading roles once held by George Clooney and Matt Damon.

If you’re one those numbskulls bitching about how a once male-dominated movie remake can’t be good because women, you’ve no idea what the real issue is. If we don’t get the lessons right about what’s going on with blockbusters nowadays, we’re doomed to have this social media nonsense repeat, so I would like to offer:

3 Lessons We Should Learn from the Ghostbusters 2016 Failure

1. Ghostbusters is Not Strong Movie Franchise Material

I can just hear all the clicks as people turn away from the page at this point or hurry down to breathe dragon fire in the comments, but hear me out.

If a movie is to be timeless, then it must be able to stand on its own merits over long periods of time. It’s completely reasonable to re-evaluate certain movies considered classics but showing signs of poor aging. A few examples I can think of are Gone With The Wind, The Graduate and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. (BTW, the reverse can be true as well with such movies as Buster Keaton’s The General, It’s a Wonderful Life and White Dog.)

Ghostbusters should go through an honest re-evaluation. Peter is introduced as a con-artist who delights in torturing students and is a sexual predator to female college students and eventually to Dana. Some of the special effects, such as the dogs, are great. Others look cheesy nowadays, reminding me of the now-hilarious squid attack scene in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Yes, CGI has advanced since 1984.

Egon and Ray are one-dimensional characters, a major flaw that Ghostbusters 2 tries to correct with a copycat script. And speaking of GB2, didn’t the first GB establish that the quartet of buddies were news worthy heroes in NYC and even get the mayor possibly reelected? If so, why then de-establish the GBers and have them go through the very same plot devices a second time? How many times are they going to be incarcerated or isolated before they’re dramatically called up for services when the city goes to Hell?

I find it totally understandable that Bill Murray had major trouble with the series. The first GB was mildly entertaining with some good special effects and Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis stealing every scene they’re in. Sony should have left well enough alone.

2. Sony Pictures is Remarkably Irresponsible

I agree with Comic Book Girl 19 that Sony saw the value in generating a sexist and racist fight on social media regarding GB 2016. Who thought that removing damning reviews from Sony’s YouTube account and leaving vehemently sexist and racist comments was a good idea?

This irresponsibility follows a long line of incredible blunders Sony’s made over the years. James Spaltro made the infamous claim as director of infomation security in 2007 that spending significant amounts of money in cybersecurity wasn’t necessary. Making such a claim was an unintentional challenge to hackers. Playstations were hacked four years later, causing an outage for as many as 77 million accounts. Then, in 2014 Sony went through a catastrophic hack that released private emails and personal information of many Sony employees. Some former employees stated that Sony’s cavalier attitude towards cybersecurity was a disaster waiting to happen.

The hacker group, Guardians of Peace, claimed the action and eventually caused an international incident regarding Sony’s pending release of the comedy, The Interview, starring James Franco and Seth Rogen. Washington got involved when the Guardians of Peace threatened to bomb theaters showing the bomb (believe me on this, I’ve seen it).

Earlier this year, Sony settled a class action lawsuit for $8 million brought on by employees whose information was compromised in the massive hack.
If all that weren’t enough, Sony is now in the middle of another hack-related lawsuit, this time by the production company of the film  To Write Love on Her Arms. The drama, involving a teenager’s battle with drug addiction and depression, was dropped from theatrical release consideration after the hack exposed the movie to piracy online. Sony’s response so far has been to claim they “had no obligation…to take any anti-piracy measures whatsoever.” They may have the legal edge, but this sure doesn’t make them look good.

Allowing a Ghostbusters PR campaign to feed off what Comic Book Girl 19 calls a “false flag” feminist issue gave Sony hope that people would read GB 2016 as a women empowering film, when in fact, it’s simply a cynical, lazy attempt to target women for on-screen ads. This is right in line with their history of callous business attitudes.

3. Sony Pictures Really Doesn’t Give a Shit about Ghostbusters Fans

The final point is the most depressing one to me.

You can currently watch the recently released documentary, Ghostheads, which shines the spotlight on several diehard GB fans and what the movie means to them. The stories are all warm-hearted: a GB group that visits young cancer patients in hospitals; a woman who quelled her alcoholism after becoming a fan; and a few stories of how family members connected to each other, thanks to the movie.

All of these stories are good and could have made for a fine film. However, like ghosts hidden in paintings and water pipes waiting to be released, Sony’s specter hung over the entire project waiting to spring in at the right moment.
That moment came at the end of the doc, when 60 GB fans were invited to the Hollywood studio screening of the first trailer. They each received a paper certificate and a lapel pin. Now, keep in mind, the people invited did the PR work for Sony on a stalled franchise that the company had no idea what to do with for a long time. Those fans, through their work and dedication to the film they love, helped Sony make a ton of money.

A paper certificate and lapel pin? Hell, they should have been flown first class to Japan and met the president of Sony.

What I’ve posted here is not meant to discourage you from being a fan of Ghostbusters. If the movie means a great deal to you, indulge in the fantastical pleasures. Bond with your children and grandchildren as Peter, Ray and Egon set out to save NYC from ghosts. Socialize with other fans who’ve had their lives changed by the film. There’s really nothing wrong with that.

My point is that Ghostbusters is a classic case of a movie viewed as merely consumable product by a company that doesn’t care about what the movie has meant to so many millions of people. The way Sony handled this property and their own history of bad judgments prove it.

Many of us have had childhood memories and family bonding involving corporate products. Our example was dinners with Kentucky Fried Chicken, long before their current trademark change to KFC. They were fond memories, but not so much that I’m walking around dressed like the Colonel (or a chicken for that matter). The reason is that at some point, either understood immediately or occurring later, we, like most people, can separate ourselves enough from the product to have proper perspectives on how its presentation is designed to manipulate us.

But what do you do when your deep connection to a company’s damaged product is broken? In the case of KFC, I learned how unhealthy the ingredients were. The solution was easy, because there are alternatives. You can seek out other restaurants serving fried chicken or prepared in healthier ways or even make your own chicken dishes at home.

In the case of Ghostbusters, owned by a company that has a hold on your memories, who you gonna call?


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