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411 Box Office Report: Blade Runner 2049 Opens Low, Still Takes #1

October 8, 2017 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 appears destined to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor as a critically-beloved but financially unsuccessful film. Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to the 1982 Ridley Scott film opened with $31.5 million, enough to take the #1 spot but a big disappointment for the studio. The opening is well below the mid-$40 million range that analysts were expecting it to do; some even thought it might go as high as $50 million after the blast of positive reviews that came out in the days before its release.

But alas, it was not to be. The film will inspire a ton of “what went wrong” columns, with no shortage of them already out. The gist isn’t as simple as most will protray it as, because there were a lot of factors that went into this disappointment. The first is that, as beloved as Blade Runner is among cinephiles, critics and genre fans, the franchise doesn’t have the appeal of a Star Wars or Star Trek film. No one was expecting Force Awakens numbers here of course, but remembering that Star Trek Beyond opened to $59 million last year should have tempered expectations a tad. Moviegoers over forty were excited perhaps, but the younger crowd has little recognition of the Blade Runner brand and PostTrak showed that just 24% of the audience was under twenty-five.

There are several other factors than just brand recognition, though. The prodigious length of the film (two hours and forty-four minutes) meant that less screenings could be squeezed in than a traditional two-hour action tentpole, which means less money. The original film’s complicated mythology made marketing tricky for the new film as well; try explaining the plot of the original in a quick sentence or two to someone unfamiliar with it in a way that would make them want to see a sequel. Tricky, right? These factors all played into the lower opening despite a great response by critics (89% on Rotten Tomatoes). The R rating also kept any pre-seventeen sci-fi fans from being able to see it.

This isn’t all bad news, but the good news isn’t great. The film added a much more satisfying $50.2 million overseas in sixty-three markets, which is right where Warner Bros. saw the film opening in those territories. That gives it an $81.7 million worldwide opening. Those who did see it liked it quite a bit, with an A- CinemaScore that may help word of mouth. It is important to note though that those younger fans who didn’t show up yet may not suddenly rush out, as their peers gave it a mere B. Right now, the film seems likely to push toward $100 million domestically, though hitting the mark is not assured. With an expensive $150 million production budget and a big marketing campaign, this appears destined to be a money loser for the studio.

Better news was had for Twentieth Century Fox this weekend, as their romantic survival drama (there’s a niche genre for you) The Mountain Between Us opened to $10.1 million for a #2 spot. That is not great for the film, but is better than the high single-digit numbers that most analysts were predicting at mid-week. The Idris Elba and Kate Winslet film served as effective counter programming for Blader Runner’s sci-fi noir despite middling reviews (46%) on Rotten Tomatoes.

Predictably, the film scored high marks from its attendees with an A- CinemaScore. Films like this generally leg out pretty nicely regardless of the critical acclaim or lack thereof, and the film seems seems likely to make its way over $35 million domestically by the end of its run. It got off to a $3.6 million start in a handful of territories overseas and will need a little bit more of a boost to make back its $35 million production budget and the advertising spend.

It was down two spots to #3 in its fifth weekend, bringing in $9.7 million for another good hold. The horror film was off 43% from last weekend, bringing its totals to $304.9 million domestically and a stunning $603.7 million worldwide. The overseas number of $298.8 million makes it the highest grossing horror film of all time internationally, passing Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’s $285.4 from earlier this year. The movie is looking at an easy road to $320 million domestically, with a final tally of $335 million still in the cards. On a $35 million budget, it’s obviously a mega-hit.

Opening at #4 was My Little Pony: The Movie. The animated film based on the popular kids show brought in $8.8 million, which is a little below the $10 million mid-week expectations for it. Lionsgate is likely happy with that start, which while not spectacular at least puts it on track to finish in the $20 million range by the time everything is said and done. Audiences predictably loved it at an A- CinemaScore, and that will offset mild critic reception at 58% on RT. No budget is available yet. The film added $3.8 million overseas for a $12.6 million worldwide start.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle dropped 52% in its third week, down to #5 with $8.1 million. The action-comedy is now running definitively behind its original entry and sits at $80 million domestically and $253.6 million worldwide. It sill still be in fine shape despite the $104 million budget, but won’t be quite the money machine that Fox was hoping for.

Tom Cruise’s American Made took a drop in its second weekend, falling 52% to finish at $8.1 million. The true story-based film is now up to $30.4 million domestically and $98.5 million worldwide on a $50 million budget. At this point, American Made seems likely to close out at around $45 million to $50 million domestically and will probably come close to making back its expenses, though it may not quite break even.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie was off 42% in its third weekend with $6.8 million. That’s enough to push the latest LEGO adaptation to $43.8 million domestically and $77.4 million off of a production a budget of $70 million. Right now, this seems to be a money loser for Warner Bros. with a likely $55 million domestic total.

Focus Films’ Victoria and Abdul expanded into a wider release, jumping to 732 theaters for a $4.1 million weekend. The Judi Dench-headlined dramedy tells the tale of Queen Victoria’s platonic relationship with her Indian Muslim servant Abdul Karim. It has been mildly well-received at 67% on Rotten Tomatoes and, should Focus expand it properly, will likely top $15 million in the US. It sits at $6 million domestically and $31 million worldwide thus far.

Flatliners is fading away quickly, off 42% from its terrible opening weekend for a $3.8 million second frame. The reboot of the 1990 film is now up to $12.3 million domestically and $18.3 million worldwide. On a $19 million budget plus marketing, it won’t make any money back. It will probably not get far about $20 million at this point.

Battle of the Sexes closed out the top ten with $2.4 million. That’s down 29%, which is solid enough even when you consider it added 609 theaters to expand to 1822 total theaters domesticallu. The sports drama is now at $7.7 million domestically and should be able to get up to $15 million or so in the US. With a $25 million budget, it will need overseas numbers to break even.

Next weekend will see Blade Runner 2049 in a battle with horror entry Happy Death Day for #1. The latter is expected to gross in the $20 million range for its first weekend thanks to some Friday the 13th scheduling luck and the increased presence to Halloween. Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan’s action-thriller The Foreigner should open in the low $10 million area.

BOX OFFICE TOP TEN (Three-Day Domestic Numbers)
1. Blade Runner 2049 – $31.5 million ($31.5 million total)
2. The Mountain Between Us – $10.1 million ($10.1 million total)
3. It – $9.7 million ($304.9 million total)
4. My Little Pony – $8.8 million ($8.8 million total)
5. Kingsman: The Golden Circle – $8.1 million ($80 million total)
6. American Made – $8.1 million ($30.4 million total)
7. The LEGO Ninjago Movie – $6.8 million ($43.8 million total)
8. Victoria and Abdul – $4.1 million ($4.1 million total)
9. Flatliners – $3.8 million ($12.3 million total)
10. Battle of the Sexes – $2.4 million ($7.7 million total)