300 Sequel Fails to Rise to Original’s Glory
By John Hamann
March 9, 2014
Remember in the old days when an original opened to $40 million and the sequel did $70 million? For 300, and its sequel 300: Rise of an Empire, the reverse is true.
The first weekend in March has become the home of the hoped for mini-blockbuster, ever since 2007 when 300 debuted to a massive $70.9 million after a huge, $28.1 million opening day. The following year, Roland Emmerich’s laughable 10,000 B.C. tried to pull the same trick, but earned $35.9 million on its way to a $269 million worldwide gross (not enough for a $105 million-budgeted movie). The same weekend in 2009 brought Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, which almost pulled off the 300 trick. It debuted to $24.5 million on its first Friday, of which $4.6 million came from Thursday, leading to a weekend of $55 million (the great start led to failure, as it had four follow-up weekends of 60% drops, and a final domestic tally of only $107.5 million, or an opening-to-total multiplier of less than 2.0). 2010 brought Alice in Wonderland, which opened to a dizzying $116 million, and went on to earn over a billion worldwide.
2011 gave us the massive flop that was Mars Needs Moms ($150 million budget, $39 million worldwide), and in 2012 Disney followed up that disaster with John Carter, the $250 million picture that earned $73 million stateside, but $284 million worldwide. Last year, Oz the Great and Powerful earned a 300-like $79 million in its opening weekend before going on to earn a half-billion worldwide against a $215 million budget. This weekend has become about delivering big budget projects to entice the spring crowd, and this weekend we get 300: Rise of the Empire at a cost of $100 million, and Mr. Peabody & Sherman at $145 million.
Our number one film, as expected, is 300: Rise of an Empire, this time without Zack Snyder in the director’s chair (he produced instead) and Gerard Butler as King Leonidas (the King is dead). The sequel is also without the deafening buzz the first created, as that completely original look is no longer that, and we’ve seen so many sword and sandal epics since then that 300: Rise of an Empire is more akin now to Wrath of the Titans ($33.5 million opening). The Thursday preview gross for Rise of an Empire came in at $3.3 million, which, for a blockbuster, is a middling amount, and was a strong indication that the sequel would not reach $50 million over its opening frame. The Friday number was reported as $17.7 million, but in reality, it was $14.4 million, once the Thursday amounts are removed. That’s half of what the original’s Friday was seven years ago, and now had to deal with sequel front-loading over the rest of the weekend.
The original 300 had a weekend multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross) of 2.52. There were showings of the original at midnight on Thursday, which would have led to the lower multiplier, but it was front-loaded because of the buzz, not the opportunity to see it at midnight. This time around, the multiplier was similar, at 2.56, which gave 300: Rise of an Empire at weekend gross of $45.1 million. This was just slightly ahead of what tracking was expecting (they got it right for once), but this time around Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures spent $100 million bringing the sequel to the screen, instead of the $65 million spent on the original. So, we’ve got a sequel that opened to a little better than 60% of the original and cost $35 million MORE to make. The Cinemascore came in at a B, lower than the original’s A-, and reviews were worse as well. The original scored a 60% fresh rating, whereas the follow-up came in at 43% fresh. Considering the fact that this one needs to earn $300 million worldwide to find a profit, it’s got a lot of strikes against it. However, it should be able to earn at least $100 million domestic and $200 million overseas (it already has $88 million from international venues), but it all feels like a missed opportunity for the viewer and fan, as well as the studios.