It's not hard to identify the otherworldly success formula for 1984'sGhostbusters.
Take the skills of comedic leading man Bill Murray, along with his screenwriting co-stars Harold Ramisand Dan Aykroyd — all at the peaks of their Hollywood careers — and put them under the direction of Ivan Reitman.
Then, in Ghostbusters parlance, cross their power streams.
"Yes, we crossed the streams of all these talents," Aykroyd says, laughing. "Sometimes in rebel moves, radical things happen. And with this confluence of talent we created the greatest thing Hollywood can create."
The ghost-catching foursome of Murray, Ramis, Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson, and their client Sigourney Weaver, displayed a synergy that led to $291.6 million in worldwide box office, a sequel in 1989's Ghostbusters II, an animated TV series, video games and the memorable phrase from the hit theme song: "Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters."
The appeal is still scary-strong as the film celebrates its 30th anniversary with the release Friday of a restored and remastered version on 700 screens. It will be packaged in a Blue-ray box set with a remastered 25th anniversary edition ofGhostbusters II (due Sept. 16).
"It's that combination of goofiness, great casting and following through on the film's promise," says film historian Leonard Maltin. "Crucially, the scary stuff works just as well as the comedy."
Inspired by his great-grandfather's 1920s research into psychic studies and spiritualism, Aykroyd wrote the original script, and Ramis helped revise it.
"I remember taking Billy (Murray) to my house for lunch during filming and he was musing, 'I think we're working on one of the great comedies of our time,' " Aykroyd says.
Others were not as convinced, including an executive at Coca-Cola (which owned studio Columbia Pictures). Aykroyd says CEO Roberto Goizueta commented, " 'You've blown $30 million of the company's money.' "
But Reitman (who also had produced Animal House) was bullish from the moment he shot scenes of the Ghostbusters walking down Madison Avenue in New York. "It felt iconic the moment I saw it,'' he says, and his view was seconded by rabid audience reactions at test screenings.
"By the end of opening weekend there were illegal black-market T-shirts with the Ghostbusters symbol on corners of every city in the country," Reitman says. After opening June 8, the film would hold the top spot at the box office for nine weeks that summer, including seven in a row.
Hudson is still shocked at the reception he gets at conventions, where fans dress inGhostbusters outfits and drive their own Ectomobiles. One convention fan, who had tattooed Hudson's autograph on her ankle, asked him to wear his Ghostbusterscostume and give her away at her wedding. He obliged.
"What's amazing to me is the staying power of these movies," says Hudson, who has enjoyed a nearly 40-year career in TV and films. "And it's jumping to an entirely new generation."
Columbia Pictures has sought to tap into the appeal with Ghostbusters 3, which Reitman had hoped to complete for the 30th anniversary. But delays started with script rewrites and Murray's refusal to participate.
After Ramis' death in February at age 69, Reitman stepped down as director, and nowBridesmaids director Paul Feig is in talks to helm the next chapter. Even producers Aykroyd and Reitman are waiting for the studio's next step.
"They are being very careful about how they are handling their baby," Aykroyd says. "And that's what it is. Ghostbusters is a very valuable commodity."