Blade Runner 2049 has been playing in theaters for a few weeks now, and unfortunately it is not the box office success many hoped it would be prior to its release. Arriving 35 years after Ridley Scott's seminal piece of science-fiction, the Blade Runner sequel received plenty of critical praise when it first opened. Everything from the breathtaking visuals to strong performances earned high marks, with many in agreement that it was one of the best films of the year. Some (including us) even believed it could replicate Mad Max: Fury Road's path to a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars - where it should at the very least dominate the technical categories.
However fair this may be, 2049's Academy Award chances took a bit of a hit when the film underperformed at the box office. While there typically is no correlation between commercial gross and prestige nominations, genre pictures like Blade Runner usually need to post high numbers in order to be considered. After all, nobody pegged Scott's The Martian as Best Picture material until it opened to the tune of $54.3 million in its opening weekend - a figure many predicted Blade Runner to match or top. With 2049's box office run winding down to a close, we're going to take a look at its performance, both domestically and worldwide.
A Stateside Flop
Though Blade Runner 2049 won its opening weekend with $32.7 million, Warner Bros. wasn't exactly popping champagne bottles over that haul. The film wildly went below expectations, which indicated a debut in the range of $50+ million. There were a number of factors working in 2049's favor as it premiered, including the widespread acclaim and recognizability of the brand name. In 1982, the original Blade Runner was a notorious bomb, but its reputation improved exponentially in the decades since. It's now considered one of the best films ever made, with a passionate fan base eager to see the story continue. That being said, some may have overestimated how much of an outreach Blade Runner has.
The main reason behind 2049's middling performance, as we've already detailed, is the simple fact that the property doesn't have as much mainstream appeal as similar titles. In the pre-Deadpool era, you could make an argument that the R-rating limited 2049's target audience, but with both the Merc with a Mouth and Logan becoming hits, that's a sentiment that doesn't hold much water. Despite the whopping $150+ million production budget, Blade Runner was designed with a smaller niche in mind - cinephiles, mostly. Though the original is a cult classic, that doesn't put it in the same ballpark as Star Wars in regards to marketability. Clocking in at nearly three hours didn't help matters either, limiting the number of daily screenings Blade Runner could secure. Although, other movies with similar runtimes have become blockbusters.
With this October being one of the worst for movies in recent memory, 2049 fans hoped Denis Villeneuve's film could be saved by strong legs, but that didn't come to pass. It was weekend champion for only its opening frame, sliding to second place the following weekend, when Happy Death Day took the top spot. Things have only gotten worse as the month has gone on. In this past weekend (the movie's fourth at the box office), it made just $4.1 million and had already been pulled from 1,637 theaters. Domestically, its total currently stands at $81.5 million, which is less than what its predecessor earned ($83.7 million for original run) when adjusted for 2017. After Villeneuve broke through last year with the $100 million hit Arrival, it was believed he could sell anything with his name, but that obviously isn't the case.
WB was certainly hoping for a stronger showing in the States, but throughout history, several films have been saved from box office purgatory by the international markets. Sometimes, a large showing in foreign countries can be enough to help a film turn a profit, but sadly, 2049 isn't getting much help there either. After all, it was a flop in China too.