The One Man Who Took A $25 Million Chance On Ghostbusters

"Ghostbusters" is one of those rare films that doubles as an example of "lightning in a bottle," where every element clicks together. It features the perfect blend of comedy and science fiction elements, something only a few films – most notably "Men In Black" – have pulled off. It also managed to kick off an entire franchise that continues to this day, from a reboot whose existence nearly broke the internet in half to "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," whose existence disturbingly proves that people will fork over the cash if your movie can stir up enough nostalgia.

But "Ghostbusters" owes its existence first and foremost to one man: Frank Price, the chairman of Columbia Pictures. An oral history for "Ghostbusters" from Vanity Fair says Price was first approached by Michael Ovitz — AKA the man who represented director Ivan Reitman and co-writer/star Harold Ramis, who would also portray Egon Spengler in the movie. Ovitz expected to sell the project based on the fact that Dan Akyroyd and Bill Murray were attached, but he was shocked at the budget Reitman requested. So he needed some extra cash, and who better to ask than a man with the last name of Price?

The Price Is right?

Reitman figured that with the success of "Stripes" — which also starred Bill Murray and Harold Raimis — he could ask for a higher price tag for "Ghostbusters." Ovitz just never expected Price to sign off on a budget that was three times that of "Stripes." He recalled:

 "I said, 'We have a project: Danny-written, Ivan directing; Bill Murray is attached; we're bringing in Harold.' Frank said, 'What do you think it will cost?,' and Ivan gave a number — $25 million all in — and Frank said, 'I'll do it.'"

Other members of Columbia weren't on board, especially then-CEO. Francis Vincent. But Price refused to budge, even when Vincent's lawyer showed up to convince him to axe the project:

"It was too expensive, too risky, [they said]...I explained, 'I've got Bill Murray.' I was going to go ahead with it. They made it clear that it was all my responsibility. I was out on the limb."

Eventually, the Columbia brass relented — and the rest, as they say, is history. "Ghostbusters" would eventually make $292.5 million at the box office, more than three times its initial budget — resulting in it being the second highest grossing film of 1984, behind fellow high concept comedy "Beverly Hills Cop" with Eddie Murphy, who, coincidentally enough, was originally supposed to be part of the "Ghostbusters" cast.

I ain't afraid of no budget

To this day, "Ghostbusters" remains a peak that most people have failed to reach. Even Reitman attempted to replicate his success in 2001 with the sci-fi comedy "Evolution," swapping ghosts for aliens. "Evolution" would receive mixed reviews and barely made back its $80 million dollar budget, and even its attempts at an animated spin-off series for kids floundered with "Alienators: Evolution Continues" only receiving a single season.

Reitman's son Jason fared far better with "Ghostbusters: Afterlife", as it made nearly $200 million on a budget of $75 million. Not only did this happen during a time where a global pandemic had cut into film business, but it also looks to be a case of history repeating itself, as Reitman managed to overcome multiple obstacles in order to turn the first "Ghostbusters" film into a success. Maybe there's a spark of life left in the proton pack after all.