Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve says he still doesn't understand why the film, which received largely positive reviews from critics, failed to perform up to expectations at the domestic box office. Budgeted at a reported $150 million, the Blade Runner sequel starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford opened with $32 million and has taken in just $89 million in North America. Worldwide, the film has grossed $252 million.
The original Blade Runner, released in 1982, was itself not a box office hit but went on to become a revered cult film thanks largely to its revolutionary visuals and groundbreaking Vangelis score. Released 35 years after the original, Blade Runner 2049 has many of the same elements that made the original so captivating for people, including eye-popping cinematography from Roger Deakins, pulse-pounding Vangelis-inspired music by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, and a story that blends science-fiction with film-noir. Casual audiences not steeped in the lore of Blade Runner, and not invested in the mysteries resurrected after three decades by the sequel, seemed disinterested in the film's dystopian world, noirish plotline and heady philosophical themes.
Speaking to Yahoo! Entertainment in a Facebook Live interview, Villeneuve expressed puzzlement and dismay at the movie's failure to catch fire at the United State box office:
I'm still digesting it. It had the best [reviews] of my life. I never had a movie welcomed like that. At the same time, the box office in the United States was a disappointment, that's the truth, because those movies are expensive. It will still make tons of money but not enough. The thing I think is that, it was maybe because people were not familiar enough with the universe. And the fact the movie's long. I don't know, it's still a mystery to me.
Though Villeneuve says he can't pin down a definite reason for the soft Blade Runner box office, he did throw out a few possible suggestions. Villeneuve mentioned that the movie is doing well in Europe, and also did well in big cities in the United States, implying that perhaps unsophisticated rural American audiences simply didn't get his movie. Villeneuve also implies that the film's marketing may not have been up to snuff. "I make movies, I don't sell them," quipped the filmmaker.
Through its trailers and other promotions, Blade Runner 2049 was mostly sold on its dystopian science-fiction visuals and the star power of Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. For whatever reason, these elements did not draw in enough people to make Blade Runner 2049 a hit. It's possible people were turned off by the movie's length and its seeming dour weightiness, but it's also true that the first Blade Runner was never a very significant film in the eyes of the general public to begin with, so its lack of box office success is probably down to people simply not caring about seeing a sequel to a film that they maybe never saw, or saw so long ago they had forgotten what it was about.
Undaunted by the disappointing performance of Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve will next tackle Dune, another science-fiction property built upon an enormously complex world, taken from source material that is not particularly well-known among the general public. Give Villeneuve credit for this much: he doesn't shy away from challenges.
Source: Yahoo! Entertainment