Moviegoers are sick of sequels. Here’s why ‘Blade Runner 2049’ will go against the trend.
For the second year in a row, movie audiences have sent a message to studios: Stop with the sequels already. Big franchises were reliable box office generators for years, but suddenly viewers were over them. Summer ticket sales in 2017 didn’t top $4 billion for the first time since 2006.
“Transformers: The Last Knight,” “Alien: Covenant,” “War for the Planet of the Apes,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” and “Cars 3″ failed to bring in as much as their previous installments. The question remains of whether that means changes are coming.
“Hollywood isn’t going to stop making sequels — that’s the only thing on the release calendar,” said Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations. “It’s just a matter of Hollywood retooling these sequels.”
He said studios have a lot to learn from the three exceptions to the rule this summer. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Annabelle: Creation” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” — which was really more of a reboot — all bested their forerunners.
But no sequel this year has outperformed a predecessor the way “Blade Runner 2049″ is about to.
In 1982, Ridley Scott’s futuristic neo-noir thriller took home nearly $33 million worldwide — not a lot considering the budget was reportedly $28 million. According to Box Office Mojo, that would be about $83 million in today’s dollars.
This weekend, Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049″ is set to bring in at least $45 million in the United States, according to Deadline, and about as much overseas, meaning that in one weekend, it could outdo the original.
According to Comscore’s senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian, early tracking indicates stellar audience response and the potential for long-term success, which he said was, “remarkable for 35-year-old IP and a dark, brooding R-rated 160 minute-plus sci-fi sequel.”
Granted, outperforming the original “Blade Runner” isn’t all that difficult. The movie opened second place behind “E.T.,” which had already been in theaters for a couple weeks. But over time, the love for “Blade Runner” grew, which is just one reason that “2049” will be a successful sequel. Here are some of the other reasons, which could offer lessons to Hollywood.
“Blade Runner” wasn’t just a great movie. It was a Great Movie.
Few critics predicted how enduring or influential “Blade Runner” would become. It frequently shows up on lists ranking the best science fiction films of all time, and it was added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry in 1993. Both the dark style and the substance of the movie — about the dynamics between humans and androids — have inspired so many films, including “The Matrix,” “Batman Begins,” “The Fifth Element” and “Strange Days.”
That’s one thing that sets “Blade Runner” apart from, say, “Zoolander,” “Neighbors” and other movies with sequels that bombed. The originals may have had memorable lines or solid action, but they didn’t leave a lasting impact to keep audiences wanting more.
The screenwriter had quite a bit of time.
According to Bock, the four sequel successes of 2017 have something in common.
“All of those films really relied on the script and made sure it was where it needed to be,” he said. “They didn’t get a green light until it was ready to go.”
Hollywood likes to capitalize on a sure thing quickly, but time can work to a movie’s advantage. Hampton Fancher, who wrote the original, had 35 years to come up with another great story, and he did, this time co-writing the screenplay with Michael Green. The pair avoided simply rehashing the original; they came up with a totally new tale with fresh characters who deepened our understanding of the dystopian world.
The audience is pretty broad.