Why Blade Runner 2049 is a box office flop

Photo courtesy of Alcon Entertainment/Acquired from WB Media Pass/Blade Runner

Blade Runner 2049 took in a paltry $31 million domestically over its first weekend, after most projections had it earning at least $45 million.

It’s been a roller coaster debut for Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049. The long-awaited sequel received rave reviews and enjoyed a well-executed publicity campaign that included a rare glimpse of Harrison Ford’s pearly whites. Unfortunately, the exposure that the film received didn’t translate into a big opening weekend. Here’s four reasons why things didn’t work out as Warner Bros. had hoped:

It’s too far removed from the original

It’s been 35 years since Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was released. The film was rated R, so the youngest people who brought themselves to the theater for opening weekend are now 52 years old. Many of the people who saw the original in theaters are now senior citizens which means the new film’s producers were counting on many of these people introducing their children to the franchise and the R rating might have made that unlikely for many families. Let’s face it, Blade Runner doesn’t exactly have the squeaky clean feel of Star Wars or Star Trek.

The budget was too big

Warner Bros. spent a whopping $150 million dollars making 2049 – for perspective, the original Blade Runner only cost $28 million. Even considering inflation, that’s a huge difference. The kicker here is that the original didn’t even earn back its budget domestically, coming in a million short with $27 million. Star Wars: The Force Awakens cost Disney under $250 million, and that franchise can collect billions in revenue for any given entry (The Force Awakens brought in over $2 billion worldwide). Blade Runner doesn’t have nearly that big of following. It’s generally considered to be more of a cult classic than a worldwide phenomenon. 2049‘s expensive CGI was amazing but probably not a wise business investment.

The film lacks mainstream appeal

Simply put, this isn’t a movie for everyone. Blade Runner is famously cerebral and contemplative. The action is slow-moving and rich–not exactly a traditional blockbuster. Moreover, the source material is “hard” sci-fi, meaning that it’s not quite as palatable as a movie adapted from a more straightforward work like The Hunger Games series. It also doesn’t help that the cast isn’t very diverse and somewhat oddly assembled. Ryan Gosling is a major draw, but Harrison Ford has seen better days and Jared Leto is notoriously polarizing. Robin Wright and Ana de Armas play important characters but get relatively little screen time given the length of the movie. Speaking of which…

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It’s way too long

The film is two hours and forty-five minutes long.  While the plot is engaging, the movie lacks the constant movement and action that modern audiences have grown accustomed to. As I wrote in my review, I found the slower pace to be a breath of fresh air, as the film allows you time to process and keep up with important plot points. That said, I understand why many people would feel deceived by the film’s marketing into thinking that this is a traditional sci-fi/action movie. The commercials painted the film as visually explosive, which is not really the case. While it’s certainly a visual marvel, it is meant to be sipped and savored like a fine wine, not chugged like a Dwayne Johnson flick. Also, many people simply don’t have a spare three hours to spend at the theater. The length was probably a major deterrent for those with busy schedules.

Blade Runner 2049 is currently in theaters.