Sony took a big risk this holiday season. Could a 160-minute hard-R-rated movie full of gore and sexual violence, based on source material that was adapted only two years ago in a popular Swedish film, be the start of a rare thing — a franchise for adults? Signs immediately after the release of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" weren't positive. Despite the presence of director David Fincher, and a massive marketing campaign, the film was slow out of the gates against more family-friendly competition, taking a disappointing $20 million in its first five days.
Sony had already commissioned a script from Steve Zaillian for "The Girl Who Played With Fire," with signs pointing to that film shooting back-to-back with the third installment, "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest," but those opening numbers suggested for the first time that the franchise might be stillborn. But like most of the Christmas releases, the film has displayed very strong legs, tripling its initial take by its second weekend, and closing in on $100 million domestically. Not a sterling result for a film that cost a fair amount, but likely enough to make follow-ups viable.
And the studio has now pubicly reaffirmed their commitment, with a spokesman for Sony telling EW that the first film "continues to do strong business and nothing has changed with respect to development of the next book," with a release for "The Girl Who Played With Fire" tentatively penciled in for late 2013. Obviously, this will depend on the coming weeks, and on international numbers (which aren't smashing so far, but the film is still rolling out in many territories), and maybe this is just face-saving spin, but right now, the numbers are perfectly healthy, and it seems that Sony has every intention of seeing stars Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara fulfill their three-film contract through to the end.
The big question at this point is whether Fincher will return. The filmmaker has been non-commital thus far, and has "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" and "Cleopatra" coming up on his dance card too. Will he want to see Lisbeth Salander's journey through to the end? Or will he move on to different pastures? We imagine that Sony wouldn't be too heartbroken. The filmmaker doesn't come cheap, and bringing in a new director would help keep costs down for the follow-up. We're sure an official announcement will follow one way or another as the numbers keep rolling. In the meantime, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" is in theaters now.