GHOSTBUSTERS began as "Ghost Smashers," Dan Aykroyd's original idea in which he and John Belushi traveled through space and time in pursuit of ghosts. When Belushi died in March 1982, trade papers reported Richard Pryor was under consideration as his replacement, but by the year's end, Bill Murray had agreed to take over the role. Aykroyd then brought the project to Ivan Reitman, a successful comedy producer (Animal House) and director (Stripes). Reitman agreed to helm the film, but wanted to change the script's locale to modern-day New York City. Coming up with the basic premise of scientists who turn to ghostbusting after losing their college grants, Reitman recruited "Animal House" writer Harold Ramis to rework the script.
In May 1983, armed with a concept and the star team of Murray and Aykroyd, Reitman pitched GHOSTBUSTERS to Columbia Pictures. Even without a finished script, the studio saw the project's potential and greenlighted the film with the understanding it would be ready for release in one year, the summer of 1984.
Production of GHOSTBUSTERS began in October 1983. Joining Murray and Aykroyd on location in New York were co-stars Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson and Ramis himself as fellow 'buster' Egon Spengler. Among the sites utilized by the filmmakers were the New York Public Library, City Hall, Columbia University, Tavern on the Green, Central Park West and Columbus Circle. After one month in Manhattan, cast and crew returned to The Burbank Studios, where production designer John De Cuir had completed the rooftop temple set. Sixty-feet high and covering an entire soundstage, the set cost $1 million to build and was surrounded by a backlit, 360-degree panorama of NYC. It was so large, in fact, that Columbia had to shut down other stages to provide cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs enough power (50,000 amps) to properly light it. A second soundstage contained Dana's apartment and a partial hotel set. Additional Los Angeles locations included a downtown L.A. firehouse, MacArthur Park, the Biltmore Hotel and The Burbank Studios' ranch, where a two-story facade of Dana's apartment building was re-created.
To meet GHOSTBUSTERS' tight production deadlines, visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund and his staff were already at work creating the film's two hundred special effects shots. Working at his shop in Marina del Rey and on the sound stages at The Burbank Studios. Edmund created creatures utilizing stop-motion, rotoscoping and cell animation. Using miniatures, he recreated the Central Park West apartment building and its accompanying unnatural disasters. These effect shots were added to the film after principal photography was concluded in February 1984.
Backed by Columbia Pictures' innovative marketing campaign -- featuring the GHOSTBUSTERS logo and the slogan, "Coming To Save The World This Summer" -- GHOSTBUSTERS debuted on June 8, 1984, to spectacularly high audience awareness, grossing $23 million in its opening weekend, a studio record. Nominated for two 1984 Academy Awards (Best Visual Effects, Best Song), and grossing over $220 million in North America alone, GHOSTBUSTERS remains one of the funniest and most successful comedies in motion picture history.