Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ivan Reitman|
|Produced by||Ivan Reitman|
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$295.2 million|
Ghostbusters is a 1984 American fantasy comedy film directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. It stars Bill Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis as, respectively, Peter Venkman, Raymond Stantz, and Egon Spengler, a trio of eccentric parapsychologists who start a ghost-catching business in New York City. The film also stars Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis, and features Annie Potts, William Atherton, and Ernie Hudson in supporting roles.
Based on his own fascination with spirituality, Aykroyd conceived Ghostbusters as a project for himself and John Belushi, with the protagonists traveling through time and space to combat a host of demonic and supernatural threats. Following Belushi's death, and with Aykroyd's concept deemed financially impractical, he was paired with Ramis to rewrite the script to set it in New York City and make it more realistic. Ghostbusters was the first comedy film to employ expensive special effects, and there was concern about the budget it would require and little faith in its potential box office success. On an approximate $25–30 million budget, filming took place between October 1983 to January 1984, on location in New York City and Los Angeles, and on sets at Burbank Studios, Los Angeles. Competition for special effects studios among various movies in development at the time meant that part of the budget was used to co-found a new studio under Richard Edlund, who used a combination of practical effects, miniatures, and puppets to deliver the ghoulish visuals.
Ghostbusters was released on June 8, 1984, to critical acclaim, becoming a cultural phenomenon. It was well-received for its deft blend of comedy, action, and horror, and Murray's performance was repeatedly singled out for praise. The film earned $282.2 million during its initial theatrical run, making it the second highest-grossing film of that year (behind Beverly Hills Cop), and the then highest-grossing comedy of all time. Also, it was the number 1 film in theatres for 7 consecutive weeks and was one of only four films to gross more than $100 million that year. Further theatrical releases have increased this total to approximately $295.2 million, making it the most successful comedy film of the 1980s. In 2015, the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It's theme song, "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr., was also a number 1 hit.
Ghostbusters was followed in 1989 by a sequel, Ghostbusters II, which fared less well financially and critically. Repeated attempts to develop a further sequel were halted follow Ramis' death in 2014, after which a 2016 reboot also called Ghostbusters was released to mixed reviews and financial failure. A second, direct sequel Ghostbusters 2020 is scheduled for release in 2020. Alongside its impact on popular culture, and a dedicated fan following, the success of Ghostbusters launched a multi-billion dollar multimedia franchise including the popular animated television series The Real Ghostbusters (which itself spawned a media franchise), its sequel series Extreme Ghostbusters, video games, board games, comic books, clothing, music, books, food, toys, collectables, and haunted houses.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Design
- 5 Release
- 6 Post-release
- 7 Legacy
- 8 Sequels and spin-offs
- 9 References
- 10 Bibliography
- 11 External links
Peter Venkman, Raymond Stantz, and Egon Spengler are scientists at Columbia University investigating the paranormal. Following their first encounter with a ghost manifesting at the New York Public Library, the dean fires them and dismisses the credibility of their research. In response, they create "Ghostbusters", a paranormal investigation and elimination service. They convert a disused firehouse, develop high-tech equipment to capture and contain ghosts, and convert a combination car into the "Ectomobile" to support their business.
Seeing their television ad, a skeptical cellist, Dana Barrett, is initially dismissive, but reluctantly calls them after a paranormal encounter in her kitchen. Recounting the event, she describes opening her refrigerator and seeing a creature uttering a single word: “Zuul.” Venkman reassures her and becomes romantically interested while Stantz and Spengler research her claims. Business is slow until they are hired to remove a ghost from the Sedgewick hotel. There, Egon warns the group never to cross the energy streams of their proton pack weapons, as this could cause a catastrophic explosion. They capture their first ghost and deposit it in a special containment unit in the firehouse.
Shortly thereafter, their business booms as paranormal activity increases across New York City. To cope with demand, they hire a fourth member, Winston Zeddemore. Suspicious of their operation, Walter Peck, an Environmental Protection Agency inspector requests to evaluate their equipment, but leaves after Venkman insults him. Privately, Egon warns the team that the increase of supernatural activity is becoming dangerous and their equipment is at risk of failing under the stress.
Venkman meets with Dana, sharing that Zuul was a demigod worshiped as a servant to “Gozer the Gozerian,” a shape-shifting god of destruction. He convinces Dana discuss her case further over dinner. However, when Dana returns home, she is supernaturally assaulted and possessed by Zuul. In a nearby apartment, a nearly identical entity manifests, then chases and possesses her neighbor, Louis Tully. Venkman arrives and finds the possessed Dana/Zuul claiming to be “the Gatekeeper,” while Louis is found by police officers, also possessed, claiming to be “Vinz Clortho, the Keymaster of Gozer.” The Ghostbusters agree that they need to regroup but keep the pair separated.
Peck returns with law enforcement and city workers to have the Ghostbusters arrested and orders the deactivation of their ghost containment system. Stressed beyond capacity, the shutdown causes an explosion that releases the captured ghosts, and Peck has them promptly arrested. Louis/Vinz manages to escape in the confusion and makes his way to the apartment building where he meets Dana/Zuul. In jail, Stantz and Egon reveal that Dana’s building is the true source of the supernatural increase. The architect was a genuis, and cult leader of Gozer-worshippers, who designed it channel ghosts in an effort to bring about the end of the world. Faced with chaos in the city, the Ghostbusters convince the mayor to release them in spite of Peck’s protests.
On the apartment building roof, Dana/Zuul and Louis/Vinz open the gate between dimensions and transform into supernatural creatures just as the Ghostbusters arrive. Gozer, in the form of a woman, arrives and Stantz attempts to reason with her first. When this fails, Gozer attacks, forcing the Ghostbusters to attempt trapping her, but she disappears. Her disembodied voice demands that the Ghostbusters "choose the form of the destructor". Ray inadvertently recalls a beloved corporate mascot from his childhood and Gozer reappears in the form of a giant, ‘Stay Puft’ marshmallow man that proceeds to attack the city. Egon tells the team to ignore his earlier advice and cross their proton energy streams at Gozer's portal. The resulting explosion destroys Gozer’s marshmallow man form, banishes the entity from this dimension, and closes the portal. The Ghostbusters rescue Dana and Louis from the wreckage and are welcomed on the street as heroes.
- Bill Murray as Peter Venkman
- Dan Aykroyd as Raymond Stantz
- Sigourney Weaver as Dana Barrett
- Harold Ramis as Egon Spengler
- Rick Moranis as Louis Tully
- Annie Potts as Janine Melnitz
- William Atherton as Walter Peck
- Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore
In addition to the main cast, Ghostbusters features David Margulies as Lenny Clotch, Mayor of New York, Michael Ensign as Manager of the Sedgewick Hotel, and Slavitza Jovan as Gozer (voiced by Paddi Edwards). The film also features astrologist Ruth Hale Oliver as the Library Ghost, Alice Drummond as the Librarian, Jennifer Runyon and Steven Tash as Venkman's psychological test subjects, Playboy Playmate Kymberly Herrin as a Dream Ghost, Timothy Carhart as a violinist, and Reginald VelJohnson as a police officer. Roger Grimsby, Larry King, Joe Franklin, and Casey Kasem cameo as themselves, the latter in a voice-only role. Kasem's wife Jean appears in the film as the tall guest at Louis' party. The film also features appearances by pornstar Ron Jeremy, and a young Debbie Gibson. Director Ivan Reitman provided miscellaneous ghost voices, including that of Slimer.
Ghostbusters was inspired by Dan Aykroyd's fascination with, and belief in the paranormal, a trait inherited from his father (who wrote the book A History of Ghosts), mother (who claimed she had seen ghosts), grandfather (who experimented with using radios to contact the dead), and great-grandfather (a renowned spiritualist). In 1981, he read an article on quantum physics and parapsychology in The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, which gave him the idea of trapping ghosts. Aykroyd was also drawn to the idea of modernizing the comedic ghost films of the early 1900s by teams like Abbott and Costello (Hold That Ghost (1941)), Bob Hope (The Ghost Breakers (1940)), and The Bowery Boys (Ghost Chasers (1951)).
Aykroyd began writing the script, intending for it to star himself, Eddie Murphy, and his friend and fellow Saturday Night Live (SNL) alumnus John Belushi, before Belushi's accidental death in March 1982. Aykroyd recalled the moment, saying "I was writing a line for John, and [producer and talent agent] Bernie Brillstein called and said they just found him... We loved each other as brothers." He turned to his other SNL former-castmate Bill Murray who agreed to join the project, albeit without an explicit agreement. Aykroyd pitched his concept to Brillstein as three men who chase ghosts, even providing a sketch of the "Marshmallow Man". He likened them to normal pest control, saying that "calling a Ghostbuster was just like getting rats removed."
Aykroyd felt that Ivan Reitman was the logical choice for director, following his successes with Animal House (1978), Meatballs (1979), and Stripes (1981), and having previously worked with him on the Canadian variety television show SCTV Reitman said that he had been told of the basic concept while Belushi was still a prospective cast member, but that it took place in the future with many groups of intergalactic ghostbusters, and "would have cost something like $200 million to make". Aykroyd's original 70–80 page script treatment was more serious in tone and intended to be scary, but contained elements such as the Marsmallow Man and Ghostbusters logo that was in the finished script.
Reitman met with Aykroyd over lunch at Art's Delicatessen in Studio City, Los Angeles and explained that his current treatment would be impossible to make. He suggested that setting it entirely on Earth would make the extraordinary elements more humorous, and that if they focused on realism from the beginning then the existence of the Marshmallow Man would be believable by the end. Reitman also conceived the idea of detailing the Ghostbusters' origins working at a university before starting their business, saying "this was beginning of the 1980s: everyone was going into business." Following lunch, Reitman and Aykroyd walked to Burbank Studios to meet with Harold Ramis. Reitman had worked with Ramis on Animal House, Meatballs, and Stripes, and believed that he could better execute his intended tone for the script than Aykroyd. Reitman also said Ramis should portray a ghostbuster, and after Ramis read the script he joined the project immediately.
Despite the script now requiring large changes, Reitman pitched the film to then-Columbia Pictures executive Frank Price in March 1983. Price recounted finding the concept funny, but the project itself controversial as comedies were seen to have a ceiling on profitability, and the required budget would be high due to special effects and the cast who had been gaining fame on Saturday Night Live. Reitman said that they could work with $25 million—$30 million (different figures have been cited) and Price agreed as long as the film could be released by June 1984. They had thirteen months to complete the film, and had no script, effects studio, or filming start date. Reitman later admitted he made up the budget figure, basing it on three times the budget of Stripes seeming "reasonable". He also hired Joe Medjuck and Michael C. Gross as associate producers, having collaborated with them previously. Columbia's then-CEO Fay Vincent sent his lawyer Dick Gallop from New York to Los Angeles to effectively convince Price not to pursue the film, but Price disagreed, and Gallop returned to the head office reporting that Price was "out of control".
Several different names were posited for the film, as Ghostbusters was legally restricted by 1970s children's show The Ghost Busters owned by NBCUniversal. Other options included "Ghoststoppers", "Ghostbreakers" and "Ghostsmashers". Fortunately, Price had parted ways with Columbia early in Ghostbusters' production and became head of Universal Pictures, at which point he allowed Columbia to have the title. Columbia paid $500,000 plus 1% of the film's profits for the title, but through Hollywood accounting practices, the film technically never made a profit for Universal to receive.
Aykroyd, Ramis, and Reitman began reworking the script, first in Reitman's office before sequestering themselves and their families to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. Aykroyd had his own home there, and they worked day and night for approximately two weeks in his basement. Aykroyd was understanding about the reworking of his script, considering himself a "kitchen sink" writer who creates the funny situations and paranormal-jargon, while Ramis refined the jokes and dialogue. They would write separately and then rewrite each other. Many scenes had to be cut, including an asylum haunted by celebrities, and an illegal ghost storage facility in a New Jersey gas station. Their initial, full script draft was completed when they left the Vineyard in mid-July, 1983, with a third and near-final draft ready by early August. When Murray later flew into New York following the filming of The Razor's Edge to meet Aykroyd and Ramis, he offered little input on the script or his character. Having previously written for Murray multiple times, Ramis said that he knew how to handle his character's voice.
It was decided early on that Ramis would be the brains of the Ghostbusters, Aykroyd was the heart, and Murray was the mouth. Aykroyd drew inspiration from Hollywood archetypes, he said "Put [the characters of Peter Venkman, Raymond Stantz, and Egon Spengler] together, and you have the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man." Aykroyd's concept called for the Ghostbusters to have a boss, and be directed into situations, but Ramis preferred them to be in control "of their own destiny" and making their own choices. This led to developing more distinct identities for the three central characters: Murray as the cool, modern salesman, Aykroyd as the honest, enthusiastic technician, and Ramis as the intelligent, factual and emotionless Egon. For Egon's appearance, Ramis found inspiration from the cover of a journal on abstract architecture, featuring a man wearing a three-piece tweed suit, wire-rim glasses, and his hair was stuck straight up. He took the character's first name from a Hungarian refugee he attended school with, and the surname from historian Oswald Spengler.
The most difficult part of writing was determining the story goal, including who the villain was and their goal, why ghosts were manifesting, and how a towering Marshmallow Man appeared. The Marshmallow Man was one of many elaborate creatures in Aykroyd's initial treatment, originally intended to emerge from the East River only 20 minutes into the film, and it stood out to Reitman but also concerned him due to the relatively realistic tone they were taking. While this process was occurring, Reitman was also searching for a special effects studio for the film, eventually recruiting Richard Edlund in the same two-week span.
Casting Murray was considered essential to Ghostbusters potential success, but he was also known for not committing to projects until the last minute. Price agreed to fund The Razor's Edge (1984) which Murray had co-written and was starring in, rationalizing that if it failed it would lose little money, but hoping the gesture would secure Murray's commitment to Ghostbusters. Outside of the main three stars, Medjuck was largely responsible for casting roles. Ernie Hudson went through approximately five auditions for the character of Winston Zeddemore, and had to wait a month before learning he had the part. According to Hudson, an earlier version of the script had his character, Winston, in a larger role with an elaborate backstory as an Air Force demolitions expert. Excited by the part, he agreed to the job for half his usual salary. The night before shooting began, he was given a new script with a greatly reduced role; Reitman told him the studio had wanted to expand Murray's role. Aykroyd has said that he wanted Eddie Murphy for the role, having worked with him on Trading Places (1983), although Reitman refuted this. Gregory Hines was also considered for the part.
Julia Roberts auditioned for the role of Dana Barrett, but it was Sigourney Weaver who attracted the makers' attention. There was some resistance to her casting due to her generally serious roles in Alien (1979) and The Year of Living Dangerously (1982). Weaver revealed her comedic background from Yale School of Drama, and began walking on all fours and howling like a dog. It was Weaver's suggestion that Dana become possessed by the demonic dog, which Reitman said solved issues with the final act by giving the events personal stakes. Weaver also changed the role from a model to a musician, saying she can be kind of strict, but "you know she has a soul because she plays the cello."
John Candy was offered the role of Louis Tully. Reitman recalled that it was a few days before Candy called him back to say he did not understand the character. Candy suggested portraying Tully with a German accent and multiple German Shepherd but the makers felt there were already enough dogs in the film, and both they and Candy passed on the casting. Reitman was already aware of Rick Moranis from mutual work in Toronto and sent him the script. He called Reitman back about one-hour later and accepted the part, saying he understood the character completely. Moranis developed many aspects of the character, including making him an accountant, and ad-libbed the lengthy speech at Tully's party. Sandra Bernhard was offered and turned down the role of Ghostbusters secretary Janine Melnitz, which went to Annie Potts. As she arrived at her first day of filming, Reitman rushed Potts into the current scene. She quickly changed out of her street clothes and borrowed a pair of glasses worn by the set dresser. Her character ended up wearing the glasses throughout the film, provided to Potts by the dresser before each scene.
William Atherton was chosen for the role of Walter Peck after appearing in the Broadway play Broadway alongside another of Aykroyd's SNL alumnus, Gilda Radner. The role was described to Atherton as akin to Margaret Dumont's role as a comedic foil to the Marx Brothers. Atherton said "It can’t be funny, and I don’t find [the Ghostbusters] in the least bit charming. I have to be outraged." The role of the Sumerian god Gozer the Gozerian was originally intended for Paul Reubens, envisioned as a business-suited architect. Reubens passed on the idea, and it went to Yugoslavian actress Slavitza Jovan with the role changing to one inspired by the androgynous looks of Grace Jones and David Bowie. Paddi Edwards was uncredited as the voice of Gozer, dubbing over Jovan's strong Slavic accent.
Principal photography began in New York City on October 28, 1983, on an approximate $25—$30 million budget. During the first day, Reitman personally brought Murray to the set, still unsure if he had read the script. On a separate day, the crew drove around the city filming spontaneous scenes at iconic locations, including Rockefeller Center where the actors were chased off by a real security guard; the scene appears in the film. A scene was shot in Central Park West with extras chanting "Ghostbusters" before the name had been cleared, prompting associate producer Joe Medjuck to contact the studio urging them to secure the title. As Reitman was working with comedians, he encouraged improvisation, adapting multiple takes to keep cast inserts that worked, but directing them back to the script.
Filming on location in New York lasted for about six weeks, concluding just prior to Christmas that year. Reitman was conscious that they had to complete the New York phase before they encountered inhospitable weather in December. Choosing to shoot in New York City, at the time, was considered risky. In the early 1980s the city was seen as synonymous with fiscal disaster and violence, and Los Angeles (L.A.) was seen as the center of the entertainment industry. In a 2014 interview, Reitman said he chose New York because "I wanted the film to be... my New York movie".
The building at 55 Central Park West served as the home of Weaver's character, and is the setting of the Ghostbusters' climactic battle with Gozer. The art department added extra floors and embellishments using matte paintings, models and digital effects to create the focal point of ghostly activity. During shooting of finale scene at the building, city officials allowed the production to close down the adjacent streets during rush hour, impacting traffic across a large swath of the city. Gross remarked that from the top of the building, they could see traffic queuing all the way to Brooklyn. At various points, a police officer drew his gun on a taxi driver who refused orders, in a similar incident another officer pulled a driver through his limo window. When angry citizens asked Medjuck what was filming, he blamed Francis Ford Coppola filming The Cotton Club. Aykroyd encountered science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, a man he admired, who complained: "You guys are inconveniencing this building, it's just awful; I don't know how they got away with this!" Directly next to 55 Central Park West is the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, which is stepped on by the Marshmallow Man.
Other filming locations included New York City Hall, the New York Public Library, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Tavern on the Green (where Louis is cornered by the demonic dog), Columbus Circle, and Firehouse, Hook & Ladder Company 8 in the Tribeca neighborhood, which was used as the Ghostbusters' headquarters. Columbia University allowed its Havemeyer Hall to stand in for the fictional Weaver Hall, on the condition that the university not be identified by name. The Irving Trust Bank on Fifth Avenue served as the bank where Aykroyd's character takes out a third mortgage to provide the Ghostbusters' startup money.
Filming moved to L.A., resuming just after Christmas and before the New Year. Despite its New York City setting, the majority of Ghostbusters was filmed on-location in L.A., or on sets at Burbank Studio, with location scouts searching for buildings that could replicate the interiors of buildings being filmed in New York. Reitman tried to use the interior of Hook & Ladder 8, but they were unable to take over it for long enough due to it being an active fire station. Interior firehouse shots were instead taken at the decommissioned Fire House No. 23 in downtown L.A.. The building design, while common in New York, was a rarity in L.A.. An archival photograph of an active crew in Fire House No. 23 from 1915 was hung in the background of the Ghostbusters office, appearing in the film.
As the film used practical effects, they needed skilled technicians that mainly resided in the city, and soundstages that, at the time, were not present in New York. While filming took place in the main reading room of the New York Public Library (they could only film early and had to be out by 10am), the basement library stacks were represented by the Los Angeles Central Library as Reitman said that they were interchangeable. The stacks were destroyed in a 1986 fire and the area now serves as space for storage and shipping. The Millennium Biltmore Hotel stood in for the scenes set at New York's Waldorf-Astoria. Principal photography concluded at the end of January 1984, after between 55 and 62 days of filming.
The short production schedule and looming June 8, 1984, release date meant that Reitman was editing the film while shooting it, and there was often time for only a small number of takes. Reitman found filming an effects-laden film sometimes frustrating, as the special effects had to be storyboarded and filmed in advance, and there was no option to go back and film new scenes. As Gross described, "you storyboard in advance, that's like editing in advance. You've got a scene, they're going to approve that scene, and we're going to spend nine months doing that cut. There's no second takes, no outtakes, there's no coverage. You can cut stuff, but you can't add stuff. It made him so confined that it really bothered him."
One of the deleted scenes involved a segment at "Fort Detmerring" where Aykroyd's Ray has a sexual encounter with a female ghost. The scene was intended to introduce a love interest for Aykroyd, but it was felt the scene was too extraneous to the fast-moving plot, and Reitman used the footage as a dream sequence during the mid-film montage. Editor Sheldon Kahn sent Reitman black-and-white reels of sequences during filming, allowing him to make changes, but he considered that this also helped him understand how to better pace the film. Kahn completed the first full cut of the film three weeks after filming concluded.
The Ghostbusters score was composed by Elmer Bernstein and performed by the 72-person Hollywood Studio Symphony orchestra at The Village in West Los Angeles, California, orchestrated by Bernstein's son Peter and David Spear. Bernstein previously scored several of Reitman's films including Animal House and Meatballs, and he was hired before filming had begun or some of the cast had been signed. Reitman wanted a grounded, realistic score, as he did not want the music to tell the audience when something was funny. Bernstein used an ondes Martenot (effectively a keyboard equivalent of a theremin) to produce the "eerie" effect. Bernstein had to import a musician from England to play it due to the rarity of trained performers. He also used three Yamaha DX7 synthesizer. Bernstein described Ghostbusters as the most difficult score he had done in a 1985 interview, finding it difficult to balance the varying comedic and serious tones of the film. He created an "antic" theme for the Ghostbusters he described as "cute, without being really way out." He found the later parts of the film easier to score, aiming to make it sound "awesome and mystical".
Reitman and Bernstein discussed early on that Ghostbusters would also feature popular music at specific points as well as Bernstein's original score, including "Magic" by Mick Smiley (played during the scene in which the ghosts are released from the Ghostbusters headquarters. Bernstein's main theme for the Ghostbusters was itself replace by Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters". Bernstein personally disliked the use of these songs, particularly "Magic", but said "it’s very hard to argue with something like ["Ghostbusters"], when it is up in the top ten on the charts."
Music was required for a montage in the middle of the film, and "I Want a New Drug" by Huey Lewis and the News was used as a temporary placeholder due to its appropriate tempo. Reitman was later introduced to Parker Jr. who developed "Ghostbusters" with a similar riff to match the montage. There were approximately 50–60 different theme songs developed for Ghostbusters by different artists before Parker Jr.s involvement though none were deemed suitable. Lewis was approached to compose the film's theme but was already committed to work on Back to the Future (1985).
During the film's thirteen-month production, all the major special effects studios were working on other films, and the biggest, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), had been booked for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and for Return of the Jedi (1983). The remaining studios were too small to work on the approximately 630 individual effects shots. At the same time, special effects cinematographer Richard Edlund was intending to leave ILM and start his own business. Reitman convinced Columbia to collaborate with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), which also needed an effects studio, to advance Edlund $5 million to start his own company Boss Film Studios and purchase the necessary equipment. According to Edlund, much of the setup time was taken by lawyers finalizing the contract; afterward, only ten months remained to build the effects studio, shoot their scenes, and composite the images. The Boss Film Studios team were split to complete work on Ghostbusters and MGM's science-fiction film 2010. The $5 million effects budget overran by $700,000. The strict filming schedule meant that the majority of effects shots were done in one take. Gross oversaw both the creation of Boss Film Studios, and the hiring of many conceptual artists including comic book artists Tanino Liberatore (whose work went unused) and Bernie Wrightson (who helped conceive several ghost designs), and storyboard artist Thom Enriquez, whose designs contributed to the "Onion Head ghost".
Edlund previously worked on the supernatural horror Poltergeist (1982) which meant it served as a reference for the ghost designs in Ghostbusters. Gross said that it was difficult to balance making the ghosts seem like a genuine threat while fitting the film's more comedic tone. Special effects artist Steve Johnson sculpted the gluttonous, slimy, green ghost then known only as the "Onion Head ghost" on set due to the puppets unpleasant smell. Now commonly known as "Slimer", it was not known as such until after the film's release when given a name in 1986's The Real Ghostbusters. The Slimer design took six months, and approximately $300,000 to develop. The design went through many variations, which Johnson blamed on executive interference through micromanagement, constant adjustments, and conflicting notes on how to modify each detail. He said "In the beginning they asked for a 'smile with arms' but before I knew it... 'give him 13% more pathos, put ears on him, take his ears off, less pathos, more pathos, make his nose bigger, now his nose is too big, make his nose smaller... Make him more cartoony, make him less cartoony".
The day prior to his deadline, Johnson learned that Aykroyd and Ramis had wanted Slimer to homage Belushi's likeness. With that information and a series of Belushi headshots, Johnson took at least three grams of cocaine and believed that Belushi's ghost was visiting him to provide encouragement. It was during this episode that he sculpted the final Slimer design that appears in the film. Aykroyd admitted that the character was inspired by Belushi, particularly his body. Ramis said that the comparison was not malicious, explaining that Belushi was the person most likely trip over a coffee table and knock a bookcase over. The model had three interchangeable faces for larger expressions, while smaller features like blinking were controlled by cables and rods by a team of puppeteers. Smaller, egg-sized models were made for less animated movements such as flying around the ceiling of the Sedgewick Hotel ballroom. The full-sized Slimer puppet was performed by Mark Wilson, who wore the foam rubber suit reinforced with spandex while being filmed against a black background. As Wilson's movement was restricted by the puppet's cables, the camera was moved around him to simulate movement.
Aykroyd tasked his friend, referred to as the Viking, with designing the Marshmallow Man, asking for a combination of the Michelin Man and the Pillsbury Doughboy in a sailor hat. The Marshmallow Man was fabricated and portrayed by actor and special effects artist Bill Bryan, who modeled his walk on Godzilla. There were 18 foam suits each cost between $25,000 and $30,000; 17 of them were burnt as part of filming during which it was worn by stuntman Tommy Cesar. Bryan had to have a separate air supply due to the foam toxicity. There were three different heads for the suit, built from foam and fiberglass, with different expressions and movements that were controlled by cable mechanisms. The costume was filmed against scale models to finish the effect. The effects team were only able to find a particular model of a police car at the correct scale, and so bought several and modified them to represent different vehicles. The water from a burst hydrant hit by a remote-controlled car was actually sand as the water did not scale down. The "marshmallow" that rains down on the crowd after it is destroyed was shaving cream. After seeing the intended 150 pounds (68 kg) of shaving cream to be used, Atherton insisted on testing it. The weight knocked a stuntman down, and they ended up using only 75 pounds (34 kg). The cream acted as a skin irritant after hours of filming, giving some of the cast rashes.
Johnson also sculpted the Zombie Cab Driver puppet. The Zombie Cab Driver was the only puppet shot on location in New York City. Johnson based it on a reanimated corpse puppet he had made for An American Werewolf in London (1981). Johnson and Wilson collaborated for the Library Ghost, creating a puppet operated by tens of cables running through the torso that controlled aspects such as moving the head, arms, and pulling rubber skin away from the torso to transform it from a humanoid into a monstrous ghoul. The original Library Ghost puppet was considered too scary for younger audiences, and was repurposed for use in Fright Night (1985). The Library catalog scene was accomplished live within three takes, with crew blowing air through copper pipes to blow the cards into the air, which had to be collected and reassembled for each take. Reitman used a multi-camera setup to focus on the librarian and the cards flying around her and a wider overall shot, The floating books were simply hung on string.
Randy Cook was responsible for creating the quarter-scale stop-motion puppets of Gozer's minions Zuul and Vinz, the Terror Dogs, when in motion. The model was heavy and unwieldy, and it took nearly 30 hours to film it moving across a 30-foot stage for the scene in which it pursues Louis Tully across a street. For the scene in which Dana is pinned to her chair by demonic hands before a doorway beaming with light, Reitman said he was influenced by Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). A rubber door was used to allow distortion as if something was trying to come through it, while grips concealed in a trapdoor beneath the chair, burst through it while wearing demonic dog-leg gloves. Made before the advent of CGI, any non-puppet ghosts had to be animated, taking up to three weeks to create a second of footage. For Gozer, Slavitza Jovan wore red contacts that caused her a large amount of pain and wore a harness to move around the set.
Technology and equipment
Hardware consultant Stephen Dane was responsible for designing most of the Ghostbusters' iconic equipment, including the "proton packs" used to wrangle ghosts, ghost traps, and their vehicle, the Ectomobile. The equipment had to be designed and built in the six weeks before filming began, beginning September 1983. Inspired by a military issue flamethrower, the "proton packs" consist of a handheld proton stream firing "neutrino wand" connected by a hose to a backpack said to contain a nuclear accelerator. Dane said that he "went home and got foam pieces and just threw a bunch of stuff together to get the look. It was highly machined but it had to look off-the-shelf and military surplus."
Following Reitman's tweaks to the design, on-screen models were made from a fiberglass shell with an aluminum backplate bolted to a United States Army backpack frame. Each pack weighed about 30 pounds (14 kg) with the batteries for lighting installed, and strained the actors' backs during the long shoots. Two lighter versions were made, a hollow one with surface details for wide shots, and a foam rubber version for action scenes. The fiberglass props were created by special effects supervisor Chuck Gaspar, based on Dane's design. Gaspar used rubber molds to create identical fiberglass shells The neutrino wand had a flashbulb at the tip, giving animators an original point for the proton streams. The production used fake walls laced with pyrotechnics to practically create the damage of the Ghostbusters proton packs. The PKE meter prop was built using an Iona SP-1 handheld shoe polisher as a base, to which lights and electronics were affixed. All the technology was designed to not be overly fancy or sleek, emphasizing the characters scientific backgrounds combined with the homemade nature of their equipment.
The Ectomobile, was in the first draft of Aykroyd's script, and he and John Daveikis developed some early concepts for the car. Dane developed fully detailed drawings for the interior and exterior and supervised the transformation of the 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor ambulance conversion into the Ectomobile. According to Akyroyd, the actual vehicle was "an ambulance that we converted to a hearse and then converted to an ambulance". Early concepts featured a black car with purple and white strobe lights giving it a supernatural glow, but this idea was scrapped after cinematographer László Kovács noted that dark paint would not film well at night. It also had fantastic features such as the ability to dematerialize and travel inter-dimensionally. Two vehicles were purchased, one for the pre-modification scenes. Dane designed its high-tech roof array with objects including a directional antenna, an air-conditioning unit, storage boxes and a radome. Because of its size, the roof rack was shipped to Manhattan via airplane, while the car was transported to the East Coast via train. Sound designer Richard Beggs created the distinctive siren from a recording of a leopard snarl, cut and played backward.
Sets and logo
In the script, Aykroyd described the Ghostbusters clothing and vehicle as bearing a No symbol with a ghost trapped in it, again crediting his friend the Viking with the original concept. The final design fell to Michael C. Gross, who had volunteered serve as art director for the film. As the logo would be required for props and sets, it needed to be finalized quickly, and Gross worked with Boss Film artist Brent Boates who was also working as a creature design consultant for the film. Boates drew the final concept, and R/GA animated the logo for the film's opening. According to Gross, two versions of the logo exist, with one having "ghostbusters" written across the diagonal part of the sign. Gross did not like how it looked and flipped the diagonal bar to read top left to bottom right instead, but they later took the wording away. According to Gross, this is the correct version of the sign and was used throughout Europe, but the bottom left to top right version was used in the United States as that was the design of the No symbol there.
Medjuck also hired John DeCuir as production designer; he was in his 80's at the time. The script did not specify from where Gozer would appear, and DeCuir painted the top of Dana's building with large, crystal doors that opened, which was written into the script. The fictional rooftop of 55 Central Park West was constructed at Stage 12 on the Burbank Studios lot. It was one of the largest constructed sets in film history and was surrounded by a 360-degree cyclorama painting. The lighting used throughout the painting consumed enough power that when in use, the rest of the studio was shut down, and an additional four generators were added on top. Small models such as planes were hung on string to animate the backdrop. The set was built three stories off the ground allowing for filming from low angles.
The first three floors and street-front at Dana's building were recreated on sets for filming, including performing the climactic earthquake scene using hydraulics to raise broken parts of the street. Broken pieces of pavement and road were positioned outside the real location to create a seamless transition between the two shots. DeCuir said: "They had one night to dress the street. When people went home early in the evening everything was normal, and when the little old ladies came out to walk their dogs in the morning, the whole street had erupted. Apparently, people complained to the New York Police Department and their switchboard lit up." For the scene in which Dana's apartment explodes outwards, Weaver was stood in place as the practical effect was utilized. Similarly, the scene of Weaver rotating in the air was done on set using a body-cast and mechanical arm concealed in the curtains, a trick Reitman learned working with magician Doug Henning.
Pre-release and marketing
The film was first screened for test audiences on February 3, 1984, with unfinished effects shots to determine if the comedy worked. Even at this point, Reitman was still concerned that audiences would not react well to the Marshmallow Man due to its deviation from the realistic take in the rest of the film. Reitman recalled that approximately 200 people were recruited off the streets to view the film without any special effects in a theater on the Burbank lot. It was during the opening librarian scene that Reitman knew the film worked, as audiences reacted with fear, laughs, and applause as the Librarian Ghost transformed from a lady into a monster. The fateful Marshmallow Scene was met with a similar reaction, and Reitman knew that he would not have to reshoot any scenes. The screening for fellow industry members fared less well. Price recalled laughing as the rest of the audience sat deadpan, rationalizing that an industry audience wants failure. Murray and Aykroyd's then-agent Michael Ovitz recalled an executive telling him "Don’t worry: we all make mistakes", while Roberto Goizueta, then-Chairman of Columbia's parent, The Coca-Cola Company, said "Gee, we're going to lose our shirts".
In the months just prior to its debut, a teaser trailer was released focused on the "No ghosts" logo, helping the icon become recognizable far in advance, and helping generate interest in the film without even mentioning its title or stars. A separate theatrical trailer for the film contained a functional toll-free telephone number with a message by Murray and Aykroyd waiting for the 1,000 callers per hour it received over a six-week period. Aykroyd and Murray also appeared in a video for ShoWest, a theater-owner convention, to promote the film. Columbia spent approximately $10 million on marketing, including $2.25 million on prints, $1 million on promotional materials and $7 million on advertising and miscellaneous costs including a $150,000 premiere for a hospital and the hotel costs for the press. Including the budget and marketing costs, it was estimated that the film would have to make at least $80 million to turn a profit.
The premiere of Ghostbusters took place on June 7, 1984 at the Avco Cinema in Westwood, California. The film received a wide released on June 8, 1984, in 1,339 theaters. During its opening weekend in North America, the film earned $13.6 million—an average of $10,040 per theater—finishing as the number one film of the weekend, ahead of horror comedy Gremlins ($12.5 million) released the same weekend, and the action adventure film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ($12 million) which was in its third week of release. The gross increased to $23.1 million during its first week, proving a hit for the studio, which had eluded it since 1982's Tootsie (in which Murray also appeared), and broke the studios own record at the time (set by Tootsie). The film remained number 1 for seven consecutive weeks, grossing $146.5 million, before being ousted by musician Prince's film Purple Rain in early August, positioning it as the second highest-grossing film of the year, behind only Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
The film briefly regained the number 1 spot the following week before spending the following five weeks at number 2, initially behind Red Dawn and then the thriller Tightrope. It was again the number 1 film for one week in mid-September and ultimately remained in the top 3 grossing films for sixteen straight weeks before beginning a gradual decline, leaving the top ten grossing films by late October. It left cinemas in early January 1985 after thirty weeks. Ghostbusters had quickly become a hit, surpassing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as the top-grossing film of that summer, and by the time it left cinemas it had earned $229.2 million, making it the second highest-grossing film of 1984, about $5 million behind Eddie Murphy's action comedy Beverly Hills Cop ($234.8 million) which released in mid-December. Its box office gross made it the highest-grossing comedy film of its time, replacing Animal House, a title it held for six months before being replaced by Beverly Hills Cop.
Columbia negotiated 50% of the box-office revenues or 90% of gross after expenses, depending on which would be higher. Since the latter was the case, the studio received a 73% share of the box office profit, an estimated $128 million figure. The main cast members each received percentages of the gross profits or net participation of the film. While figures do not exist for all involved, a 1987 report estimated that Murray alone had earned between $20-$30 million from his share. Detailed box office figures are not available for territories outside of North America, but it is estimated to have earned approximately $53 million, bringing Ghostbusters' worldwide total to $282.2 million. That year saw the release of several films that would become considered iconic of the era, including Gremlins, The Karate Kid, The Terminator, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Romancing the Stone, and The NeverEnding Story, and it was the first time in box office history that four films grossed over $100 million, including Ghostbusters.
Ghostbusters received a re-release in North America in August 1985, earning a further $9.4 million over five weeks, raising the film's theatrical gross to $238.6 million, surpassing Beverly Hills Cop to become the most successful comedy of the 1980s. A restored and remastered version of the film was released to celebrate Ghostbusters' 30th anniversary, playing for three weeks beginning in August 2014, at 700 cinemas across North America. The film grossed an additional $3.5 million, bringing the theatrical total to $242.2 million. The film has also received very limited re-releases for special events and anniversaries. Adjusted for inflation, its North American lifetime total is $564 million. According to box office tracker Box Office Mojo's own calculations, based on estimated admissions and average ticket prices in 2019, Ghostbusters has sold the equivalent of $641.2 million worth of tickets, making it one of the highest-grossing films of all time.
Ghostbusters opened to generally positive reviews. Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four, citing it as a rare example of successfully combining a special effects blockbuster with "sly" dialogue. Ebert noted that the effects existed to serve the actors' performances rather than the reverse, saying that it is "an exception to the general rule that big special effects can wreck a comedy". He also cited Ghostbusters as a rare mainstream film with many quotable lines. Gene Siskel enjoyed the characters interacting with each other and in particular gave praise to Murray's performance, saying that his comedic sensibilities compensated for "boring special effects". He was particularly critical of the plot's late addition and lack of development for Hudson's character, saying it makes "him appear as only a token box office lure."
Richard Schickel similarly praised Murray, and the grace of Aykroyd and Ramis in allowing Murray to outshine them. Schickel considered Murray's character Peter Venkman a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop fully his patented comic character". He said that the effects appearing somewhat "tacky" served as a comic commentary on ghost films, and ultimately said that praise was due to all involved for "thinking on a grandly comic scale." Dave Kehr countered that Aykroyd and Ramis were "curiously underutilized", but also appreciated Murray's deadpan line readings. Kehr said that Reitman is adept at improvisational comedy, but that he loses control of the film as the special effects gradually escalate.
Arthur Knight appreciated the relaxed style of comedy, and said that while the plot is "primitive", it has for more style and finesse than would be expected of the creative team behind Meatballs and Animal House. Knight singled out editors Sheldon Kahn and David Blewitt for creating a sustained pace of comedy and action. Peter Travers said that despite "bathroom humor and tacky sight gags" Ghostbusters was "irresistible nonsense", comparing the film to supernatural horror film The Exorcist (film) (1973), but starring comedy duo Abbott and Costello starring. Travers appreciated how Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis worked together.
Joseph Gelmis described the Ghostbusters as an adolescent fantasy, comparing their firehouse base to the Batcave with a Fireman's pole and Ectomobile on the ground floor. Gelmis said that the film works as a collaborative effort between the main three Ghostbusters, particularly Murray who dismisses the serious situations to keep them comedic. Deseret News' Christopher Hicks praised Reitman's improved directing skills, as well as the crew for avoiding vulgarity found in their previous films, Caddyshack (1980) and Stripes. He found that they instead reached for more creative humor and genuine thrills. Hicks singled out Murray who, according to him, "has never been better than he is here". Hicks noted that Murray, Ramis and Aykroyd "wanted to be like the Marx brothers of the 80s". He complained at the finale, claiming it to have lost its sense of fun and to be "overblown", but found that the film compensates this since it "has ghosts like you've never seen".
Janet Maslin was more critical, stating that Murray's talents were in service to a film lacking wit or a coherence. She noted that many of the characters had little to do, leaving their stories unresolved as the plot began to give way to servicing the special effects instead. For Maslin, Ghostbusters worked during the small ghost-catching scenes, but went out of hand during the apocalyptic finale. However, she did praise Weaver's performance as a "excellent foil" for Murray. Variety said that Ghostbusters made a mistake in having top comedians but having them often working alone, calling it a "lavishly produced" film that is only periodically impressive. Variety also singled out Murray for his "endearing" physical comedy and ad-libbing. Newsweek's David Ansen enjoyed the film, describing it as a teamwork project where everyone works "toward the same goal of relaxed insanity"; he called the film "wonderful summer nonsense". Pauline Kael had problems with the chemistry among the three lead actors. She praised Murray, but felt that other actors did not have much material to contribute to the story; she concluded, "Murray's lines fall on dead air."
Ghostbusters was nominated for two Academy Awards in 1985: Best Original Song for "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr. (losing to Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You" from The Woman in Red), and Best Visual Effects for John Bruno, Richard Edlund, Chuck Gaspar and Mark Vargo (losing to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom).
That same year, the film was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards: Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (losing to Romancing the Stone), Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for Murray (losing to Dudley Moore in Micki & Maude), and Best Original Song for Parker Jr., (losing again to "I Just Called to Say I Love You"). "Ghostbusters" went on to win the BAFTA Award for Best Original Song, and Edlund was nominated for Special Visual Effects (losing again to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). It won Best Fantasy Film at the 12th Saturn Awards.
Ray Parker, Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on August 11, 1984, two months after the film's release, and stayed there for three weeks. It spent a total of 21 weeks on the charts. The theme is estimated to have added $20 million to the film's box office gross. Directed by Reitman, the "Ghostbusters" music video was number 1 on MTV, and features cameos by celebrities including Chevy Chase, Irene Cara, John Candy, Melissa Gilbert, Ollie E. Brown, Jeffrey Tambor, George Wendt, Al Franken, Danny DeVito, Carly Simon, Peter Falk, and Teri Garr. None of the actors were paid for their involvement, taking part as a favor to Reitman. Shortly after the film's release, Huey Lewis sued Ray Parker Jr, for plagiarism, alleging that he had copied the melody(primarily the bassline) from Lewis' 1983 song "I Want a New Drug". The case was settled out of court in 1985, for an undisclosed sum and a confidentiality agreement that prohibited discussing the case. According to Parker, Jr. there were several lawsuits at the time, because "when you sell that many records, I think everybody wants to say that they wrote the song." Parker, Jr. later sued Lewis for breaching the confidentiality agreement in a 2001 episode of VH1's Behind the Music, where he reasserted that Parker, Jr. stole the song. Regarding his case against Lewis, Parker, Jr. said "I got a lot of money out of that." In 1984, the filmmakers were also sued by the makers of Casper the Friendly Ghost for $50 million and the destruction of the film. They alleged that the Ghostbusters logo was based on their character Fatso. The case was decided in Columbia's favor.
Murray left acting for four years following the release of Ghostbusters. He described the film's success as a phenomenon that would forever be his biggest accomplishment and, compounded by the failure of his personal project The Razor's Edge (1984), he felt "radioactive" and chose to avoid making movies until 1988 in the Christmas comedy film Scrooged. Murray was paid $6 million to star in that film, as his multi-year absence had increased his audience draw and therefore his fee. Art Linson said that aside from Eddie Murphy, Murray's was the only other name that could draw $10 million of tickets in the opening three to four days. That film even traded on Ghostbusters' popularity in its marketing, using the tagline that Murray was "back among the ghosts". In a 1989 interview, Reitman said that he was upset at the "little respect" he felt Ghostbusters received and that his work was not taken seriously, believing many dismissed it as just "another action-comedy".
Hudson for his part looked on the film fondly and with lament. He regretted the marginalization of his character from the original script, as many of Winston's major scenes were passed to Murray. He felt that Ghostbusters did not improve his career as he had hoped or been promised and that in some cases it had actually cost him roles. Hudson turned to television after Ghostbusters appearing in several shows, as he considered that his experience had taught him how to adjust when things did not go his way. In a 2014 interview, Hudson said "I love the character and he's got some great lines, but I felt the guy was just kind of there. I love the movie, I love the guys. I’m very thankful to Ivan for casting me. I’m very thankful that fans appreciate the Winston character. But it’s always been very frustrating—kind of a love/hate thing, I guess." As for Atherton, based on Murray's ad-libbed insult of "dickless", he claimed that by the mid-1990s, fans would still refer to him as such on the streets to Atherton's ire.
Ghostbusters has been analyzed as an era-appropriate example of Republican or Libertarian ideology, particularly based on Reagan era economics popularized by then United States President Ronald Reagan which focused on limited government spending and regulation in favor of a free market provided by the private sector of entrepreneurship, profit motives, and individual initiative.
Analysts point to the film's premise of a small private business that is obstructed by an arrogant, incompetent bureaucrat (Walter Peck) from a government agency (the Environmental Protection Agency). It is only through this interference that the Ghostbusters' ghost containment unit is compromised, unleashing spirits upon the city and triggering Gozer's arrival. Indeed, when Peck arrives to shutter the Ghostbusters, Egon affirms that "this is private property". In this sense, it is Peck, not Gozer, who represents the film's true villain. Others note that after losing their jobs at the university, Aykroyd's character is upset because their public sector funding required little of them, while he has worked in the private sector and "They expect results."
The Washington Examiner notes that it is the private sector that arrives to combat the increasing supernatural activity in New York, for a fee, while the government is incapable of doing anything. As Vox highlights, the mayor, a government representative, is motivated to release the Ghostbusters to defeat the godly threat after being reminded that their success will save the lives of "millions of registered voters", a cynical view of an official who is motivated mainly by what will allow him to retain his position. Both Aykroyd and Reitman have confirmed these allusions to be intentional, Reitman, in particular, considering himself a "conservative-slash-libertarian".
Ghostbusters was released on VHS in October 1985, in competition with the home release of Beverly Hills Cop. The latter's studio, Paramount, scheduled the film for release only the day before Ghostbusters. In response, Columbia moved Ghostbusters' release a week earlier. Removed from the competition, Ghosbusters was predicted to sell well, though it was expected that the equally popular Beverly Hills Cop would do better, given its $29.95 price compared to Ghostbusters $79.95. Columbia developed a $1 million ad campaign to promote the VHS release. It was the tenth bestselling VHS during its launch week, and the purchase of rights to manufacture and sell cassettes was estimated to have made a further $20 million for Columbia. A then-record 410,000 initial VHS units were ordered of the film (beaten a few months later by Rambo: First Blood Part II's 425,000 unit order), and by February 1986, it was estimated to have sold 400,000 copies and earned $32 million in revenue, making it the third best-selling VHS of 1985, behind Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (425,000 units, $12.7 million) and Beverly Hills Cop (1.4 million units sold, $41.9 million).
The film was released in 1989 on LaserDisc, a format recently beginning a resurgence in popularity. Ghostbusters was released in a one-disc CLV version, and a two-disc special edition CAV version featuring deleted scenes, a split-screen demonstration of the film's effects, the screenplay, and other special features. In a 1999 interview for the first release of the film on DVD, Reitman admitted that he had not been involved in the LaserDisc version and had been embarrassed by the visual changes that "pumped up the light level so much you saw all the matte lines", highlighting flaws in the special effects. Ghostbusters was also the first full-length film to be released on a USB Flash Drive when PNY Technologies did so in 2008.
Blu-ray disc editions were released to celebrate the film's 25th, 30th, and 35th anniversaries in 2009, 2014, and 2019 respectively, featuring a remastered 4K resolution video quality, deleted scenes, alternate takes, fan interviews and commentaries by crewmembers including Aykroyd, Ramis, Reitman, and Medjuck. The 35th-anniversary version came in a limited edition steel book cover and contained unseen footage including the deleted "Fort Detmerring" scene. Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" received special edition vinyl record releases, one as a glow in the dark record and the other a white record presented in a marshmallow-scented jacket. A remaster of Bernstein's score was also released in June 2019, on CD, digital, and vinyl formats. It includes four unreleased tracks, and commentary by Bernstein's son Peter.
Following its release, Ghostbusters was considered a phenomenon and highly influential, the "Ghostbusters" theme song was a hit, and Halloween of 1984 was dominated by children dressed as Ghostbusters. It is considered one of the first blockbusters and is credited with refining the term to effectively create a new genre that mixed comedy, science fiction, horror, and thrills. Ghostbusters also confirmed that the merchandising success of Star Wars (1977) was not a fluke, and that a successful, recognizable brand could be used to launch spin-offs, helping establish a business model in the film industry that has since become a status quo. Once Ghostbuster's popularity was clear, the studio aggressively cultivated its profile, translating it into merchandising and other media such as television, extending the profitability lifetime long after the film had left theaters.
Entertainment industry observers credit Ghostbusters, alongside Saturday Night Live with reversing the industry's perception of New York City, which had a negative perception in the early 1980s. Weaver said: "I think it was a love letter to New York and New Yorkers. Central Park West, and Tavern on the Green, and the horses in the park, and the doorman saying, "Someone brought a cougar to a party" – that's so New York. When we come down covered with marshmallow, and there are these crowds of New Yorkers of all types and descriptions cheering for us as a New York–it was one of the most moving things I can remember." It is similarly credited with helping diminish the divide between television and film actors. Talent agent Michael Ovitz said that prior to Ghostbusters, television actors were never considered for anything but minor roles in film.
Lasting critical reception
Ghostbusters's positive reception has lasted beyond its release, and it is considered one of the most important comedy films ever made. On its 30th anniversary in 2014, The Hollywood Reporter's entertainment-industry voted ranking named it the seventy-seventh best film of all time. That same year, Time Out rated Ghostbusters five out of five, praising Reitman's direction, Murray's performance, the script, the special effects, and the soundtrack, describing the film as a "cavalcade of pure joy". It is listed in the film reference book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, which says "Big-budget special effects and comedy are cleverly interwoven in this fantasy adventure...it is Murray’s Dr. Peter Venkman, with his character’s sleazy charm and cockiness, who steals every scene... and that is an impressive achievement indeed when you consider that his special effects costars include a gigantic, stampeding marshmallow man intent on reducing Manhattan to a pile of sugary rubble that would steal the movie away from a less skilled comic talent."
Ghostbusters is considered one of the best films of the 1980s, appearing on several lists based on this metric, including number 2 by Film.com, number 5 by Time Out, number 6 by ShortList, number 15 by Complex, number 31 by Empire, and it was unranked by Filmsite. The film also appeared on several lists of the best comedy films, by outlets including number 1 by Entertainment Weekly, number 4 by IGN, number 10 by Empire, number 25 by The Daily Telegraph, and number 45 by Rotten Tomatoes. Others have named it as one of the best science-fiction films, best science-fiction comedies, and best Summer Blockbusters.
In 2001, the American Film Institute ranked Ghostbusters number 28 on its 100 Years...100 Laughs list recognizing the best comedy films. In 2009, National Review ranked Ghostbusters number 10 on its list of the "25 Best Conservative Movies of the Last 25 Years" list, citing that the "regulation-happy" Environmental Protection Agency is portrayed as the villain and it is the private sector that saves the day. In November 2015, the film's screnplay was listed number 14 on the Writers Guild of America's 101 Funniest Screenplays. Contemporary review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes offers a 97% approval rating from 71 critics—an average rating of 8.14/10, which provides the consensus, "an infectiously fun blend of special effects and comedy, with Bill Murray's hilarious deadpan performance leading a cast of great comic turns". The film also has a score of 71 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 8 critical reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
The film had a significant impact on popular culture and is considered a highly influential film, credited with inventing the special-effects driven comedy. Its basic premise of a particular genre mixed with comedy, and a team combating an otherworldly threat has been replicated to varying degrees of success since in films like Men In Black (1997), Evolution (2001), The Watch (2012), R.I.P.D. (2013), and Pixels (2015). In 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". Reitman responded: "It’s an honor to know that a movie that begins with a ghost in a library now has a spot on the shelves of the Library of Congress."
In 1984, the Ghostbusters phenomenon was referenced across dozens of advertisements for everything from airlines to dentistry and real estate. The "-busters" suffix became a common term used at both local and national stages, being applied to topics like the United States national budget ("budgetbusters"), agriculture ("cropbusters"), B-52s ("nukebusters") sanitation ("litterbusters"), or Pan American Airlines ("pricebusters"). Similarly, the "no ghosts" logo was modified to protest political candidates like Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale to Mickey Mouse by striking Disney workers. Other contributions to the cultural lexicon included "Who ya gonna call" from Parker Jr's "Ghostbusters", and Murray's adlib of "this chick is toast" against Gozer to imply that she was finished or doomed over the scripted line of "I'm gonna turn this guy into toast". This is thought to be the first historical usage of "toast" as a slang term.
Ghostbusters quickly developed a dedicated fan following that has continued to thrive in the years since, and despite its mainstream success, is considered to an example of a cult blockbuster, popular films with a dedicated fanbase. The film is popular globally, inspiring fan clubs, fan-made films, art, conventions, and fans dressed as Ghostbusters occasionally burst into the main reading room of the New York Public Library. The 2016 crowdfunded documentary Ghostheads follows various fans of the series and details the impact it has had on their lives, interspersed with interviews from crew including Aykroyd, Reitman, and Weaver. Memorabilia from the film is popular, with a screen-used Proton Pack selling for $169,000 at a 2012 auction, and in 2017, a newly discovered ankylosaur fossil was named Zuul crurivastator after Gozer's minion.
Empire's reader-voted list of the 100 Greatest Movies placed the film as number 68. In 2014, Rolling Stone readers voted Ghostbusters the ninth greatest film of the 1980s. Describing why Ghostbusters' popularity has endured, Reitman said "kids are all worried about death and... ghost-like things. By watching Ghostbusters, there’s a sense that you can control this, that you can mitigate it somehow and it doesn’t have to be that frightening. It became this movie that parents liked to bring their kids to — they could appreciate it on different levels but still watch it together."
Ghostbusters was turned into a special-effects laden stage show at Universal Studios Florida, that ran from 1990 to 1996, which was based mainly on the film's final battle with Gozer. The 2019 Halloween Horror Nights event at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Florida will host a haunted maze attraction featuring locations, characters, and ghosts from the film. The film has also been referenced across a variety of media including film (Casper (which featured Aykroyd as a Ghostbuster), Zombieland, Ex Machina, and Ready Player One), television (Stranger Things), and video games (Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff and Planet Coaster).
Developing merchandise for a film was still a relatively new prospect at the time of Ghostbusters' release, and it was only following the success of Star Wars merchandise (which had sold $2.6 billion by 1989) that other studios attempted to duplicate the idea. The unexpected success of Ghostbusters meant that Columbia themselves did not have a comprehensive merchandising plan in place to fully capitalize on the peak of its popularity, but were able to generate additional revenue by applying the popular "no ghosts" logo to a variety of products. Instead, much of the merchandising success came from licensing the rights out to other companies based on the later success of the 1986 animated spin-off The Real Ghostbusters. Indeed, merchandise based directly on the film did not initially sell well until The Real Ghostbusters, which alone helped generate up to $200 million of revenue in 1988, the same year that the Ghostbusters proton pack was the most popular toy in the United Kingdom. A video game of the same name was released alongside the film and was considered a success. The film also received two novelizations, Ghostbusters by Larry Milne (released alongside the film), and Ghostbusters: The Supernatural Spectacular by Richard Mueller (released in 1985). "Making Ghostbusters", an annotated script by Ramis, was released in 1985.
In the years since its release, Ghostbusters merchandise has comprised soundtrack albums, action figures, books, Halloween costumes, various LEGO and Playmobil sets including the Ecto-mobile and Firehouse, board games, slot machines,, pinball machines, bobbleheads, statues, prop replicas, neon signs, ice cube trays, Minimates, coin banks, Funko Pop figures, footwear, lunch boxes, and breakfast cereals. A Slimer-inspired limited-edition citrus-flavored Hi-C's Ecto Cooler drink first released in 1987, was one of the more popular items, and did not cease production until 2001. The Slimer character became iconic and popular, appearing in video games, toys, cartoons, sequels, toothpaste, and even juice boxes. There have also been crossover products including comic books and toys that combine the Ghostbusters with existing properties like Men in Black, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, and World Wrestling Entertainment.
Sequels and spin-offs
The film's success spawned the Ghostbusters franchise, comprising animated television shows, film sequels, reboots, video games, music, and a wide variety of merchandise. The film was initially followed by the 1986 animated television series The Real Ghostbusters (later renamed Slimer! and The Real Ghostbusters), that ran for 140 episodes over 7 seasons across 6 years, and itself spawned a spin-off Slimer-centric sub-series, comic books, and merchandise, and was followed by a sequel series in 1997's Extreme Ghostbusters. A film sequel, Ghostbusters II, was released in 1989. The film earned a then-record breaking non-holiday opening weekend gross of $29 million and one day opening gross of $10 million, with an estimated 2 million more people watching the film during its opening weekend than Ghostbusters, but it ultimately earned less than the original's total gross and received a less positive critical reception.
Despite the sequel's relative failure, the name recognition and popularity of the actors and their characters meant a third film was still pursued. The concept failed to progress for many years as Murray was reluctant to participate. In a 2009 interview, he said "We did a sequel and it was sort of rather unsatisfying for me, because the first one to me was... the real thing. and the sequel... They’d written a whole different movie than the one [initially discussed]. And the special-effects guys got it and got their hands on it. And it was just not the same movie. There were a few great scenes in it, but it wasn’t the same movie. So there’s never been an interest in a third Ghostbusters, because the second one was disappointing... for me, anyway.". In the years that followed, Aykroyd continued his attempts to develop a sequel throughout the 1990s to the early 2010s. In 2009, Ghostbusters: The Video Game was released, featuring story consulting by Ramis and Aykroyd, and the likenesses and voice acting of Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, Hudson, Potts, and Atherton. Set two years after Ghostbusters II, the story follows the Ghostbusters training a new recruit (the player) to combat a ghostly threat related to Gozer. The game was well-received, earning award nominations for its storytelling. Aykroyd has referred to the game as being "essentially the third movie". Ghostbusters: The Return (2004) was the first in a planned-series of sequel novels before the publisher went out of business, and several Ghostbusters comic books have also continued the original groups adventures across the globe and other dimensions.
Following Ramis' death in 2014, Reitman chose to no longer serve as director for a potential third film. This allowed Sony to bring in director Paul Feig who chose to reboot the series with the female-led Ghostbusters: Answer the Call in July 2016, starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon as the titular Ghostbusters. Before its release, the film was beset by controversies, and on release it became considered a box office bomb with mixed reviews. A second, direct sequel to the original two films was announced in January 2019, with Reitman's son Jason serving as director. Written by Jason Reitman and Gil Kenan, the sequel is scheduled for a 2020 release.
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