Though it topped the box-office this weekend, the decidedly underwhelming result for Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049” has led to much discussion.
Playing on over 4,000 screens domestically and scoring rave reviews with critics, the $150 million budget film still only managed $32.7 million in ticket sales – that’s around one-third less than estimates of $45 million which tracking suggested going into the weekend.
It’s a soft enough start that Warner Bros. domestic distribution president Jeff Goldstein admits even the studio is surprised by what happened, saying the film particularly underperformed in mid-sized and smaller markets. He added to Reuters:
“We did well in the major and high-profile markets. Alcon [Entertainment] and Denis made an amazing movie. The audience for it was narrower than we anticipated.”
Part of the blame is going to the film’s near three-hour running time, part in the film’s lack of appeal to women and younger audiences – both of which stayed away in droves, but various columnists and insiders are wondering if there are some larger issues at play.
Though beloved by film nerds everywhere, the original “Blade Runner” is no “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” in terms of popularity and was a famous flop at the time. It was, and always has been, more a critical darling and artistic influencer than a popular favoite.
Warners tried to push it as a blockbuster, but frustratingly kept things so enigmatic and mysterious that they appear to have overestimated audience interest in the property. Social media reaction has praised the style and visuals, but there’s been a notable backlash against the film’s treatment of its female characters and others with misgivings about the story.
One growing concern though is what this means for other intelligent, adult sci-fi films that take risks over the next few years. Will less of them be greenlit in favour of more formulaic fare?