Blade Runner Sequel Fades Over Opening Weekend
By John Hamann
October 7, 2017
Blade Runner 2049 is a box office tease. It got us all worked up, and then faded, like air hissing out of a slowly deflating balloon. Kind of sad, if you ask me.
The reason for that deflating balloon has to do with the fact that patrons are resisting seeing Blade Runner 2049. The problem is that they were going to have to work through what must be a crunchy movie (I’m probably seeing it as you’re reading this), Blade Runner 2049 is also a dark movie that runs almost three hours long. It’s October, and the moviegoer doesn’t mind thinking. We propelled The Martian and Gravity to about $55 million each over their opening frames, numbers Blade Runner 2049 was hoping for. Unfortunately, those were on the "unreasonably lofty" side of projections. The consensus target was $40-45 million, and let me say that Blade Runner 2049 did not come close to that this weekend.
Other openers also landed in the top three. The kid flick My Little Pony (now I won’t be able to get the TV ad jingle from the '80s/'90s out of my head), did okay, considering I have no idea whether they even sell these things anymore. However, you have to think boys of any age weren’t going to the movies with their sisters this weekend, or will deny it to their friends (nah, we snuck in to It). The other opener is The Mountain Between Us, as Idris Elba is leading another film that is destined to struggle. The want-to-see factor just isn’t there.
When the Thursday preview numbers were counted, Blade Runner 2049 looked like it had tapped into something. Reviews were fantastic, the box office was wide open as American Made had underperformed, and the sequel was buzzing – at least amongst a certain demographic. That demo showed up on Thursday, and the sequel earned $4 million, ahead of expectations, but at the same time on par with Alien: Covenant, an anticipated Ridley Scott franchise returnee. Covenant earned $4.4 million on Thursday, but that was a summer release, allowing more people to get out for a late show on Thursday night. Still, here is a sequel (albeit distant) from a film that opened in 1982, and it still had that kind of preview (before caving over the rest of the weekend and its run).
People were quick to point out that the Blade Runner sequel outperformed Gravity and The Martian at previews, but Gravity came out in 2013, and The Martian was even more of a thinker (or was perceived that way prior to opening) than Gravity or Blade Runner 2049. So, with my typical Monday Morning Quarterback hat on, the preview wasn’t all that grand – especially if the weekend went on to look anything like the opening take of Alien: Covenant ($36.2 million). Blade Runner 2049 was a better film, with a higher want-to-see factor, so it would do better. Right? Right?
Hold on to your origami. The opening day for Blade Runner 2049 landed at $12.7 million – including the $4 million in previews, a number lower than anyone expected. Comparisons to The Martian and Gravity were now moot, and Warner Bros., who spent $150 million on the sequel, was quickly changing the Sunday box office communication strategy from trumpeting the opening weekend, to pumping the idea of legs for a very good film. That’s how quickly these things can change, and how putting too much faith in a Thursday preview number (which was aided by IMAX) can put estimates out of whack.