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Despite strong reviews and an A- CinemaScore, Denis Villeneuve’s big-budget sequel Blade Runner 2049 careened off course in its North American debut over the weekend, even while placing No. 1.
The long-awaited follow-up to Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic grossed $31.5 million from 4,058 theaters, a dismal start for a movie that cost $150 million to make after tax rebates and incentives. Heading into the weekend, all signs pointed to Blade Runner 2049 taking in $45 million or more. One issue: The sci-fi epic runs 163 minutes. To boot, it skewed heavily male (71 percent) and older, with 86 percent of the audience over the age of 25, including 63 percent over 35.
Blade Runner 2049 is a huge bet for Alcon Entertainment, which owns the film and co-financed it with Sony. Warner Bros. is handling domestic distribution duties per its deal with Alcon — backed by FedEx mogul Fred Smith — while Sony has international.
The event film rolled out in most major markets over the weekend, grossing a strong, but not spectacular, $50.2 million for a global bow of $81.5 million. Unless it overperforms in China, Japan and South Korea, where it has yet to open, Blade Runner 2049 isn’t likely to meet its goal of earning at least $400 million worldwide. It opened No. 1 in 45 out of 63 markets, led by the U.K. with $8 million, 15 percent of Mad Max: Fury Road.
Villeneuve’s sequel, made with Scott’s input, stars Ryan Gosling opposite Harrison Ford, who reprises his role as Rick Deckard. Jared Leto, Dave Bautista, Robin Wright and Ana de Armas also star. Blade Runner 2049 debuted notably behind October releases Gravity (2013) and The Martian (2015), which each launched to $54 million-plus, as well as behind another long-awaited sequel, Mad Max: Fury Road, which bowed to $45 million domestically in May 2015.
“We’re disappointed it didn’t have a stronger result in North America. It’s a tough one, because Denis made a beautiful movie,” says Warners domestic distribution chief Jeff Goldstein. “We definitely played to a more narrow audience than we had hoped for. Where we did do business was in the major markets.”
Goldstein is hopeful that Blade Runner 2049 will have strong staying power, and he predicted that the film will garner major awards attention.
The weekend’s other two entries didn’t exactly wow, either.
Fox 2000 and Chernin Entertainment’s romantic-adventure drama The Mountain Between Us, starring Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, scaled to only $10.1 million from 3,068 theaters. Directed by Hany Abu-Assad, the $35 million film tells the tale of two strangers who are stranded in the wilderness after surviving a plane crash. Beau Bridges and Dermot Mulroney also star in the pic, which placed No. 2.
“The real revelation of this movie is Hany. And we excelled in smaller markets that are more receptive to love stories,” says Fox domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson, adding that 58 percent of ticket buyers were female.
Mountain Between Us launched to $3.6 million from 11 markets internationally for a global tally of $13.7 million.
Lionsgate and Hasbro’s animated pic My Little Pony opened to a muted $8.8 million from 2,528 locations. Based on Hasbro’s television series and magical pony toy line, the film is voiced by Emily Blunt, Kristin Chenoweth, Michael Pena, Uzo Aduba, Liev Schreiber, Taye Diggs and Sia. Overseas, My Little Pony took in $3.8 million from 49 markets for a global bow of $12.6 million.
Mountain Between Us and My Little Pony likewise garnered A- CinemaScores.
My Little Pony came in fourth in North America behind New Line Cinema and Warner Bros.’ horror sensation It, which earned $9 million in its fifth outing to clear the $300 million mark domestically. And internationally, It is now the biggest horror film of all time with $298.8 million, putting the pic’s worldwide haul at $603.7 million to date.
Among award contenders, Stephen Frears’ Victoria & Abdul moved into the top 10 as it expanded into a total of 732 theaters in its third weekend, grossing $4.1 million for a screen average of $5,659 and an early total of $6 million for Focus Features.
Fox Searchlight’s Battle of the Sexes slipped to No. 10 as it upped its theater count from roughly 1,200 locations to 1,822. The biographical sports film grossed another $2.4 million for a domestic total of $7.8 million.
A24’s The Florida Project opened in four theaters, grossing $152,622 for a strong screen average of $38,156, the best of the weekend.
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