Fans flood Fort Macleod for special sold-out Ghostbusters: Afterlife screening

·3 min read
Fans of the cult favourite Ghostbusters franchise hit the streets of Fort Macleod on Saturday night in advance of a special screening of the latest installment in the series. (Joel Dryden/CBC - image credit)
Fans of the cult favourite Ghostbusters franchise hit the streets of Fort Macleod on Saturday night in advance of a special screening of the latest installment in the series. (Joel Dryden/CBC - image credit)

Franchise aficionados, local celebrities and Fort Macleod, Alta. residents all descended on the historic Empress Theatre on Saturday night to celebrate the release of the new film in the cult-favourite Ghostbusters franchise.

The Ghostbusters franchise is well-known for its dedicated fanbase, and Saturday's screening brought them out in full force to clean up the southwest town, complete with combat boots, utility belts and ecto-goggles.

A planned appearance by a massive inflatable Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man (also know as Mr. Stay-Puft) had to be nixed due to southern Alberta's infamous winds — but that didn't quell fan excitement for the night's event.

"My wife helped me get tickets to the premiere, so we flew and spent a couple days over here," said Marcelo Ponce, who travelled up to Fort Macleod from Salt Lake City, Utah, and belongs to the Ghostbusters of Salt Lake fan club.

Joel Dryden/CBC
Joel Dryden/CBC

Ponce said he became a fan of the franchise as a child living in Chile, when he saw the first movie. When he moved to the United States, he continued his fandom.

"It's every fan of Ghostbusters' dream to be able to see the new movie. We've been waiting for this for a long, long time," Ponce said. "They sold out pretty quick. So for me, it's like a dream come true."

Margaret Ann Bianco, theatre director of the Empress Theatre, said people from all around the world came to the screening.

"I think just to have Fort Macleod recognized that way that it will be, and certainly the Empress Theatre, we're just thrilled," she said.

Who ya gonna call?

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the fourth film in the supernatural comedy franchise, which began in 1984 with the Bill Murray-led Ghostbusters, ranked the 28th funniest American film of all time by the American Film Institute.

The latest film stars Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon and Finn Wolfhard. It was directed by Jason Reitman, the son of Ivan Reitman, who directed the original film and its 1989 sequel.

Joel Dryden/CBC
Joel Dryden/CBC

Rather than a ghost-catching business in New York City, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is set 30 years after the second movie in small town Oklahoma.

Fort Macleod, as well as Turney Valley, Drumheller, Beiseker and Crossfield, all played host to the production crew when filming took place in 2019. Familiar sights, like Fort Macleod's Empress Theatre and Drumheller's water tower, are all prominently featured in the film's trailer.

Sue Keenan, who was chief administrative officer of Fort Macleod while Ghostbusters shot in the community, said the production was a great opportunity for the community.

"The production team was fantastic, the businesses and residents were very co-operative. It was just a really fun experience for everybody," she said.

Saturday's screening quickly sold out after tickets went on sale, but drinks and food were available to the public as part of the celebration under a tent that helped block the wind on a chilly Saturday night.

Proceeds from the event are intended to raise money for future renovations on the seats and floors in the historic theatre, which has operated since 1912.

Ghostbusting here at home

Other ghostbusting fan groups also made the trek to Saturday's screening, including local outfits.

Jacqueline Burt, secretary of the non-profit Alberta Ghostbusters, said the event was a long time coming.

"This is the culmination of a lot of hard work, and a lot of fan passion. To have this event in Alberta, it's something that we're very proud of," Burt said.

"To be on the ground floor for this is just a phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Joel Dryden/CBC
Joel Dryden/CBC

Burt said about a third of the members of Alberta Ghostbusters are women, adding that there's something different available for everyone who wants to participate.

"In Ghostbusters, you can be anybody," she said. "It's open to an entire fandom of people, it's not a specific group. And that's what I think makes it really special."

CBC Calgary has launched a Lethbridge bureau to help tell your stories from southern Alberta with reporter Joel Dryden. Story ideas and tips can be sent to joel.dryden@cbc.ca.

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