By Joey Nolfi
Updated July 14, 2016 at 11:25 PM EDT
Hopper Stone, SMPSP
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Paul Feig’s long-awaited Ghostbusters remake storms into wide release this weekend, and now it’s on audiences to answer the call.

As the weekend’s most prominent new release, the $144 million comedy goes to battle with the animated heavy-hitter The Secret Life of Pets, which debuted to an astounding $104.4 million last weekend. With a large drop expected for the Illumination-Universal family film, Ghostbusters has a solid shot at topping the domestic box office, fronted by one of today’s most reliable money-makers, Melissa McCarthy.

So, who will come out on top? Here’s how the July 15-17 weekend box office showdown could play out:

1. Ghostbusters – $57 million

It’s difficult to remember any film in history the Internet has wanted to sabotage more than Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot. Since the trailer debuted earlier this year, it’s become the most disliked video in YouTube history, and the comments section is an offensive mess filled with sexist and racist reactions from a wide range of users.

Thankfully, critical reviews for Ghostbusters have been positive, further adding to the film’s appeal. Controversy, especially that which is as nonsensical and gender-based surrounding Ghostbusters, rarely derails a film’s box office potential in the long run.

General audiences have proven they’re mesmerized by anything Melissa McCarthy does, regardless of good or bad reviews. Despite a critical smackdown, her 2014 comedy Tammy went on to gross $84.5 million at the domestic box office, while she carried Spy to $110.8 million in 2015. McCarthy’s fourth collaboration with Feig, Ghostbusters is also bolstered by a likable, yet bankably-untested cast that includes SNL alumna Kristen Wiig, and current sketch show players Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon.

Despite what the haters would have you believe, Ghostbusters is a harmless summer comedy that appeals to fans of the original and newcomers alike, and the coverage it’s received in the media these last few months has made it a must-see event, and surely the biggest draw for moviegoers this weekend as it debuts on 3,950 screens.

2. The Secret Life of Pets – $53 million

Blowing past expectations with a stunning $104.4 million debut last weekend, the Illumination-Universal animated comedy pulled in the sixth-highest opening weekend for a July movie in history. The only problem with opening so high? What goes up must come down – especially during the crowded summer movie-going season.

Up against potential juggernaut Ghostbusters, The Secret Life of Pets will likely plummet around 50 percent in its second weekend. Animated films have fared well throughout 2016 thus far (save for the Focus Features flop Ratchet & Clank), though both The Angry Birds Movie and Finding Dory fell between 50.8 and 46 percent from weekend one to weekend two, respectively. A similar plunge is in the cards for Pets, but it should push past the $200 million mark by Sunday’s end after riding high on strong reviews and decent word-of-mouth.

3. The Legend of Tarzan – $10.5 million

It hung on to the runner-up position at the domestic box office for its first two weekends of wide release, but David Yates’ $180 million tentpole will finally swing a bit lower, likely finishing at No. 3 against the formidable Ghostbusters, which will eat up a healthy portion of Tarzan‘s PG-13 demographic.

Though it exceeded analyst predictions with a $46.6 million opening weekend, the film has a long road ahead on the way to recovering its mammoth budget. As of Wednesday, the film hadn’t yet crossed the $90 million line in the United States, while it has made just $56 million from international territories thus far. It’ll probably finish its North American run above the $120 million mark, and its foreign numbers will get a boost when the film opens in China on July 19.

4. Finding Dory – $10 million

Finding Dory‘s red-hot run at the box office is finally starting to cool, as the film slides closer toward the back half of the domestic top 10 after a stellar performance over the last month. The Disney-Pixar sequel has cemented its status as the top-earning picture of 2016 thus far, and nothing seems poised to challenge it at this point.

Further adding to its current total of $431.9 million, Dory is set to earn the most money of any animated movie (unadjusted for inflation) in history by the end of Sunday, overtaking Shrek 2‘s $441 million haul as it is expected to heap another $10 million to its total over the next three days.

5. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates – $9.5 million

Zac Efron’s latest R-rated comedy was a modest success across its weekend debut, pulling in $16.6 million over its first frame, far better than some of the actor’s other raunchy laughers like Dirty Grandpa ($11.1 million) and That Awkward Moment ($8.7 million).

That being said, audiences weren’t entirely impressed with what they paid for, either. It earned a middling B grade on CinemaScore, and averaged a pitiful 3.7/10 from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics weren’t kind to the film, either, as it currently stands at 51 percent on Metacritic.

It’s worth repeating that summer comedies, however, typically have longer legs than comedies released at other times of the year (the one exception being around the holidays), and as the only mainstream, adult-oriented comedy on the market, Mike and Dave should earn back its relatively small $33 million budget at the top of next week, pending a lower-than-average drop this weekend.

Outside the top 5, Broad Green Pictures’ Bryan Cranston-starring crime drama The Infiltrator got a head-start Wednesday as it approaches its first weekend, pulling in $773,761 on opening day. The indie distributor is still inexperienced when it comes to wide releases (its only other wide release to date was June’s The Neon Demon, which tanked), though Cranston’s appeal should drive the film to around $2-4 million this weekend.


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