By Frank Pallotta, CNN Business

In 1984, “ghost hunters“has become one of the most popular comedies in movie history. Now, nearly four decades later, audiences have answered the call at the box office for a spooky new franchise sequel.

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” – which stars Paul Rudd, Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard – grossed around $ 44 million at the North American box office this weekend. It’s a great start to the comedy and exceeded expectations that brought the film closer to $ 30 million.

The opening is good news for Sony, the film studio, which is trying to end 2021 on a roll. The studio was a hit in October thanks to “Venom: let there be carnage“- which is one of the most successful films of the year – and followed in November with” Afterlife “.

Sony could also have the biggest blockbuster of 2021 next month with “Spider-Man: No Way Home”.

“The ‘Ghostbusters’ brand is proving to be a resilient brand with a well-thought-out reboot and the public has been following the journey with enthusiasm,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore told CNN Business.

“Afterlife” hitting a strong opening makes sense given that the original film in the series is a beloved phenomenon that grossed $ 227 million domestically in 1984. (That’s over $ 600 million today in taking into account inflation.)

Sony sold “Afterlife” with a lot of nostalgia for this movie including bringing back popular characters and iconography. This strategy apparently worked well for the studio this weekend.

“Afterlife” was also able to find an audience despite being hampered by the ongoing pandemic and lackluster critical reviews. The film got mixed reviews which led to a 62% score on the review site, Rotten Tomatoes.

Exhibitors hope the public will keep coming back as the historically lucrative holiday season kicks off next week. Thanksgiving weekend will have “Encanto” from Disney Animation and “House of Gucci” from 20th Century Studios under the marquee.

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.