First, the good news: Blade Runner 2049 was the No. 1 movie at the box office this weekend, and its $32.7 million debut was only about $100,000 shy of what the original made during its entire theatrical run back in 1982. But even if the good folks at Warner Bros. choose to see a glass half full, that glass can’t contain champagne, right? Early estimates for Denis Villeneuve’s massive, art-damaged return trip to a world of paranoid androids made less than the most conservative estimates of box-office gurus, whose predictions were mostly in the $50-million range. Factor in that hefty $150-million price tag—coupled with the Tyrell-only-knows-how-much they spent on advertising the movie on every channel, billboard, bus, and webpage within reach—and it’s hard to see a happy ending in the sequel’s financial future.
There are plenty of credible theories as to why Blade Runner 2049 isn’t the massive hit on which its backers were banking. It’s long as hell, which not only might have scared off some prospective viewers, but also meant that multiplexes could only program so many showtimes in a given day, even if they reserved multiple screens for the movie. There’s the possibility that a dark, bleak vision of where the world could be headed didn’t appeal to that many folks at this particular juncture, who’s to say why? But the most reasonable explanation may be the simplest: For all the acclaim and reverence it’s garnered over the years, the original Blade Runner remains something of a cult movie—and while that cult might be bigger than ever, it was still perhaps presumptive to assume that a very belated sequel to a box-office disappointment was going to perform like a giant franchise movie. Call it the Zoolander 2 effect.
Nothing really created a dent this weekend; after a record-breaking September (thanks to It, which just became the biggest horror movie ever, anywhere), October has gotten off to a shaky start. $10.1 million is all The Mountain Between Us managed to make as Blade Runner counterprogramming, though that’s maybe a higher peak to which a movie this bad (and bad-looking) could have been expected to reach. And the new My Little Pony movie only squeezed $8.8 million from acquiescing parents, making it the latest underperforming animated movie this year to prove that the seemingly foolproof genre of big-screen cartoons isn’t so foolproof after all. (In the top five, it landed between It and the Kingsman sequel, which actually ended up winning last weekend’s very tight three-way race—sorry to prematurely call it for the clown, folks.) If there’s real good news, albeit it on a smaller scale, it belongs to The Florida Project, which began its theatrical rollout on four screens. This A.V. Club favorite made $153,000 out the gate, resulting in the week’s best per-screen average, no contest. That glass is entirely full, with champagne or whatever else the suits at A24 down in celebration.
For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.