‘Blade Runner’ Comes Out of Retirement to Lackluster Results

Updated on
  • Sequel to 1982 classic tops box office but misses estimates
  • Theater stocks decline as expected hit opens to slow sales

“Blade Runner 2049,” a revival of the 1982 sci-fi cult classic starring Harrison Ford, opened as the top film in North American theaters this weekend with underwhelming results.

The film, distributed by Warner Bros. and backed by Sony Pictures and Alcon Entertainment, opened with sales of $32.8 million, researcher ComScore Inc. estimated Sunday in an email. That was less than BoxOffice.com’s $54 million estimate.

While “Blade Runner 2049” opened to favorable reviews and an extensive marketing effort, the picture joins the many remakes and sequels that have fallen short with a skeptical movie-going public in the U.S. Overseas sales will now ultimately dictate whether the $150 million production profitable.

Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049.
Source: Warner Bros. Pictures

“It was definitely a disappointing result given all the buildup and the huge projections for the film,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. “It’s an intellectually charged sci-fi movie, and that limited its appeal.”

Theater stocks tumbled in New York. AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., the largest exhibitor, slumped 7.9 percent to $14, while Regal Entertainment Group, the No. 2 U.S. chain, fell 4.6 percent to $16.01. Cinemark Holdings Inc. was down 3.8 percent to $36.26.

About seven of every 10 people who went to the movie in the U.S. were male, Warner Bros. said in a statement Sunday. The audience also skewed older, with 86 percent over the age of 25.

The movie’s running time -- two hours and 43 minutes -- also hurt, Dergarabedian said.

Missed Expectations

“Blade Runner 2049” missed Warner Bros.’ more conservative expectations, which were for a $45 million opening weekend. Analysts at BoxOffice.com estimated the movie may take in $135 million through its domestic run.

The big budget and marketing campaign mean “Blade Runner 2049” will need to bring in more than $400 million worldwide to break even and $675 million to be considered a real success, according to Jeff Bock, senior analyst at box-office researcher Exhibitor Relations.

Overseas, “Blade Runner 2049” made $50.2 million in its first weekend, with the U.K. leading the way at $8 million, Sony said. Russia took in $4.9 million, while Australia and France generated $3.6 million each. The movie doesn’t debut in China until Nov. 10.

Those close to the film expect that in coming weeks the movie will draw in fans overseas. Critics think it has a chance of winning Oscars, which would keep the flick in theaters for a longer period.
“We are optimistic that ‘Blade Runner 2049’ will find a broader audience over the next weeks and months,” said Jeff Goldstein, head of domestic distribution for Warner Bros.

Ford, Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright and Jared Leto starred in the sequel to the 1982 film. Gosling is featured as a young blade runner, a policeman who kills androids known as replicants. He finds a long-buried secret that leads him to seek out former blade runner Rick Deckard, played by Ford.

RottenTomatoes.com, which aggregates critics’ comments into a single rating, gave the film an 88 percent positive score.

The film unit of Sony Corp. was the biggest contributor to the production budget, at $90 million, and stood to gain or lose the most from its box-office reception. The studio’s domestic ticket sales were up 1.9 percent this year through Oct. 1. A film’s backers split box-office proceeds with theaters.

“The Mountain Between Us,” a survival tale from Fox featuring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, made its debut in second place with sales of $10.6 million, while Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.’s “My Little Pony: The Movie” produced $8.9 million and came in fourth.

— With assistance by David Carey

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