It could have been worse: The final domestic weekend totals for “Blade Runner 2049” came to $32.7 million, about $1.25 million better than initial pre-Sunday estimates. That could mean all is not lost for Warner Bros. — but with production, marketing, and distribution around $300 million, it’s still a dreadful result. Who stands to suffer the most? Here are some losers — and, some possible winners.
Alcon Entertainment and Sony
Alcon, the 20 year-old production company founded by FedEx’s Fred Smith, has produced 31 films, with one big moneymaker (“The Blind Side”), some smaller successes (“Dude, Where’s My Car?,” “P.S. I Love You,” “Insomnia”) and several higher-budget flops (“Transcendence,” “Point Break”).
Its total investment in “Blade Runner 2049” isn’t totally clear. Sony is reported to have contributed $90 million for international rights, with its share of marketing expenses uncertain. So Alcon will neither bear the entire expense nor keep all the revenues, but it appears to be in a position to lose tens of millions. Sony will be in for a loss as well, perhaps their biggest of the year. The studio’s summer had a gratifying high-cost franchise reboot in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and two mid-level successes in “Baby Driver” and “The Emoji Movie.” But for a studio that is struggling for an identity, it’s a demoralizing loss, particularly with the absence of any immediate blockbuster on their release schedule.
Domestic Theaters and 2017 Box Office
It might seem strange to give one underachieving film too much importance, but observers hoped that “Blade Runner 2049” could maintain the momentum “It” began last month. However misplaced the expectations, stocks of all three leading U.S. exhibitors dropped around five percent Monday.
The market isn’t always logical, but the elevated profile for Denis Villeneuve’s film, its expense, and the desire for a continued box-office surge may have led to a too-great symbolic value. Also, two other new openers — “The Mountain Between Us” (20th Century Fox) and “My Little Pony” (Lionsgate) — came in below even their modest expectations.
Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fo
Smart Sci-Fi Takes a Hit
“Blade Runner 2049” has a flawless pedigree for intellectual sci-fi, but this summer saw two similarly smart-sci fi sequels fall short. Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant” was knee-deep in respect for its universe but earned just $74 million domestic gross. Then, “War for the Planet of the Apes” managed a decent $145 million domestic, but fell a third from its most recent predecessor.
Both “War” and “2049” had strong-enough reviews to be legitimate Best Picture nominees, but both now look like long shots. And their overall results may discourage other efforts at big-budget, brainy science fiction.
Ryan Gosling Falls Short
Coming off “La La Land,” Gosling was given the sequel to a cult favorite. He’s a 35 year old star with younger crowd appeal, who might have been a mismatch for the film.
Gosling’s “La La Land” turn reinforced his romantic-comedy chops, but nothing in his career other than “Drive” (which grossed under $40 million) suggested strong appeal to fanboys interested in edgy and smart genre films. (Imagine his progenitor, Cary Grant, in this role; it’s hard to fathom.)
Few stars guarantee box office. Sure, Dwayne Johnson is critical for the “Fast and Furious” films, but even Jennifer Lawrence couldn’t propel “Passengers” much past $100 million domestic. Still, producers often rely on them; that can be a mistake.
The Winners: Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins
Quebecois director Villeneuve made an amazing transition from French-language arthouse movies to mainstream success. First with “Prisoners” and “Sicario,” and then the 2016 Best Picture and Director nominee “Arrival,” he seemed a safe choice to move up to a film that cost as much as all his previous ones combined.
Its shortfall in grosses is less important than the acclaim and respect the film has received. And with two of his upcoming projects remakes of “Dune” (for Legendary) and “Cleopatra” (Sony and Scott Rudin), the only thing he might have to worry about is a lessened chance of an Oscar nod.
Finally, there’s no pity party for Roger Deakins, the genius cinematographer with 13 Oscar nominees and no wins. This one could still be the film to end that streak: “2049” earned him rapturous reviews and personal notice, and his biggest competition could be Hoyt van Hoytema and “Dunkirk.”