By Dave McNary
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - The rebooted "Ghostbusters" is launching with a respectable $46.5 million opening weekend at 3,963 locations, trailing "The Secret Life of Pets" for the top spot at the U.S. box office, Saturday estimates showed.
Illumination-Universal's hit "The Secret Life of Pets" should win the weekend with $50 million at 4,381 sites, declining only 52% from its opening. The animated comedy's 10-day total will hit $202 million by the end of Sunday.
Sony-Village Roadshow's "Ghostbusters," starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, is on its way to posting the best debut weekend for a live-action comedy since "Pitch Perfect 2" opened with $69 million last year. Sony's recent estimates had been in the $38 million to $40 million range while rivals had forecasted correctly that it would take in between $45 million and $50 million.
"Ghostbusters" topped "Pets" on its opening day on Friday with $17.2 million, while "Pets" took in $15 million on its eighth day. "Pets" should more than make up the difference on Saturday and Sunday.
"Ghostbusters" received a decent B+ Cinemascore from its audience with under 25 moviegoers giving the film an A-. Sony noted that it represented the biggest live-action opening since Fox's "X-Men: Apocalypse" two months ago and the second-highest live-action non-superhero film of the year behind Disney's "The Jungle Book."
"Ghostbusters" also has to overcome the perception -- particularly among male fans -- that it would not measure up to the 1984 original. That film, starring Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson, was a smash hit with a massive $229 million domestic total.
First tracking last month had shown that the opening weekend for the new "Ghostbusters" could be well under $40 million but a massive marketing campaign and solid reviews gave it some needed momentum. The film has a current 73% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
It's also facing a tricky road to being profitable, given its hefty $144 million price tag. "Ghostbusters" will need to maintain solid performance in the coming weeks to be profitable -- and generate significant grosses overseas. "Ghostbusters" opens internationally in the English language territories of the U.K. and Australia as well as Brazil and a handful of other smaller markets.
As with the original, the movie is set in Manhattan being beset by an invasion of ghosts. Ivan Reitman, who directed the original film, produced with Amy Pascal.