Denis Villeneuve

All signs pointed to ‘Blade Runner 2049’ being one of the biggest hits of the fall, dominating the month of October.  Presales were higher than those of prior hits and it boasted a big name cast including Academy Award nominee Ryan Gosling and the legendary Harrison Ford.  Perhaps best of all, advance critical reaction was stellar with an 89% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes.  It was predicted to score $40-50M its opening weekend, but the sad– and unexpected– reality is that it only pulled in $31.5M.  ‘Blade Runner 2049’ cost a reported $155-170M to produce, but in its second weekend was bested by low-budget slasher flick ‘Happy Death Day’ which was made for $5M and opened to $26.5M, just $5M shy of ‘Blade Runner”s.

It seems that while the original ‘Blade Runner’ is held as a science fiction landmark, it’s simply too old and obscure to appeal to younger audiences, most of whom had never seen it, but felt that they had to in order to understand the new one.  It’s unclear exactly where to place the blame for ‘Blade Runner 2049”s under-performance.  Was it the mysterious marketing campaign?  Was it the long running time?

Director Denis Villeneuve responded to the film’s reception, saying:

“As a filmmaker, I’m not arrogant. People put a lot of money in the movie to allow me to make something like Blade Runner. They trusted me, and they gave me a lot of freedom, and they are friends. So of course I want the movie to be a success at the end of the day. It’s a long journey, but I want them not to lose money.”

He had previously responded to questions regarding his taking on the daunting task of following up such a classic original film:

“I came on board because the script was very strong. But no matter what you do, no matter how good what you’re doing is, the film will always be compared to the first, which is a masterpiece. So I made peace with that.”

Thankfully, due to foreign ticket sales, at least the film appears to have made back its lofty budget with $194M, but there is still the matter of marketing, which is unknown, but is likely several additional million.  But there is still the factor of home video and VOD, which should add a significant amount.  And Warner Brothers has launched a campaign to get the film nominated for the upcoming award season, which should fuel further interest.

Still, no studio invests $155-70M to break even.  ‘Blade Runner 2049’ may not be a financial hit, but by most accounts is a beautiful film that may earn a reputation as grand as the original ‘Blade Runner’.

Did you see ‘Blade Runner 2049’?  Should the film have done better at the box office?