On this day in 1984, the now-classic comedy Ghostbusters is released in theaters across the United States.
Produced and directed by Ivan Reitman, Ghostbusters starred Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as disgraced parapsychology professors in New York City who turn to “paranormal investigation”–hunting down and capturing ghosts—to make money after Columbia University yanks their research grants. Suddenly overwhelmed by the demand for their services, they hire a fourth team member (Ernie Hudson) who predicts that the increased supernatural activity is building to a catastrophic Judgement Day-like scenario. His fears turn out to be right on target, and all hell breaks loose after a skeptical government official (William Atherton) pulls the plug on the ghostbusters’ containment system. Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis co-starred as Manhattan apartment dwellers possessed by followers of a long-dead deity, Gozer, with whom the ghostbusters must wage a climactic battle.
Aykroyd and Ramis co-wrote the script for the film, which Aykroyd had originally conceived as a vehicle for himself and John Belushi, his co-star in TV’s Saturday Night Live and The Blues Brothers (1980). Belushi died of a drug overdose in 1982, however, and the part was later rewritten extensively to accommodate the unique talents of Bill Murray, another SNL alum known for his work in Meatballs (1979), Caddyshack (1980) and Stripes (1980).
Despite its hefty $30 million production budget–an unprecedented amount for a comedy–Ghostbusters was a box-office hit by any standards, beating out Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to become the second-highest-grossing movie of the year with $229 million, behind only Beverly Hills Cop ($235 million). It was equally well-received by critics; Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, for one, called it “an exception to the general rule that big special effects can wreck a comedy…one of those rare movies where the original, fragile comic vision has survived a multimillion-dollar production.” Ghostbusters spawned a hit 1989 sequel, Ghostbusters II, also co-written by Aykroyd and Ramis, and two animated television series. In the fall of 2008, Variety reported that Columbia Pictures had hired writers to produce a script for a long-awaited third Ghostbusters installment.