Evil rules the weekend
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
September 16, 2012
After suffering through the worst weekend of earnings since the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Hollywood turned to a pair of proven commodities. The Resident Evil franchise and the re-release of Finding Nemo in 3D guaranteed that consumers would return to theaters this weekend. In the end, more consumers chose the zombie apocalypse rather than family-friendly fish.
In March of 2002, almost six years to the day after the debut of Resident Evil on the Playstation, Paul W.S. Anderson wrote and directed a theatrical adaptation of the events of Raccoon City. At the time, the only aspect of the movie less likely than Resident Evil becoming a five film franchise was probably Anderson seducing lead actress Milla Jovovich into marriage. Resident Evil proved ultimately rewarding for Anderson in this regard. The movie not only earned $103.8 million worldwide against a $35 million budget but also afforded him an introduction to his life partner and eventual mother of his child, a woman 11 years his junior who also happened to be the world’s highest paid model at the time. Paul W.S. Anderson lived the Hollywood dream with Resident Evil.
In the years that followed, Resident Evil has become a box office oddity. The sequels have been universally disregarded as genre fluff and yet each one has proven to be a frugal box office winner. Resident Evil: Apocalypse was critically reviled (ALL Resident Evil movies qualify under this…Umbrella), yet it debuted to $23 million in 2004. Its final domestic box office of $50.7 million surpassed the original’s $40.1 million; the Resident Evil sequel further demonstrated the international drawing power of the concept with a global take of $128.9 million, a 24% improvement on its predecessor.
Resident Evil: Extinction and Resident Evil: Afterlife have continued this trend of global expansion. The third Resident Evil movie opened to $23.7 million in North America before finishing with $50.6 million, effectively duplicating Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Worldwide, Extinction reached new heights with $146.2 million, a total that seemed like a reasonable example of the franchise’s drawing power. The inclusion of 3D in Resident Evil: Afterlife changed the equation, though.
The fourth Resident Evil movie established franchise records in all three major categories. It is the strongest performer in terms of opening weekend ($26.7 million), domestic total ($60.1 million) and worldwide gross ($295.9 million). In eyeballing that global number, we can see that Resident Evil: Afterlife earned more than Apocalypse and Extinction combined. Global audiences were that impressed with a 3D release that featured state of the art technology created by James Cameron himself.
More impressively, Anderson maintained frugal budgets throughout the franchise’s history. Afterlife cost only $57.5 million to produce, only $7.5 million more than Resident Evil: Apocalypse. If you have ever wondered why there have been five Resident Evil movies produced, the math here will clarify the issue. The first four films in the franchise required a financial outlay of roughly $188 million. Those same four titles have earned $675 million in worldwide revenue. Any title that earns a factor of 3.6 more than its budget is going to get a sequel if at all possible. And right on cue…