The Last Stand is the 2013 poster child for a film that we loved but almost no went out to see; but in 2012, that dishonor went to Dredd 3D. The film - an attempt to relaunch the popular Judge Dredd comic book character in a retooled film franchise - hardly made a dent in the box office, though we (and many other geek types) gave it a favorable review.
With a total haul of $32 million (worldwide!) on a $50 million budget, it seemed that Dredd would definitely not get a sequel; but with the latest word on the film's sales figures in the home video market, could there be new hope for another chapter?
A press release confirms that Dredd claimed the number one spot in DVD/Blu-ray sales, putting up some impressive figures:
The verdict is in and Lionsgate (LGF), a leading global entertainment company, announced today that the home entertainment release of DREDD claimed the number one spot on the DVD sell-through and Blu-ray charts with 650,000 units sold, making it the best-selling new release title of the year. Blu-ray units accounted for nearly 50% of week 1 POS at retail. In addition, the critically acclaimed thriller, starring Karl Urban (Star Trek) as the titular character Judge Dredd , was the top film download for the week, outpacing all other titles in digital sales as well. Said Ron Schwartz , Lionsgate Executive Vice President & General Manager, Home Entertainment. “We’re also pleased that a film released on 3-D Blu-ray was able to top the sales charts, a clear reflection of how quality films in this up and coming format can find their audience.”
Lionsgate was the studio behind both Dredd and The Last Stand - and has arguably suffered the brunt of moviegoer skepticism in return for offering what are (ostensibly) crowd-pleaser films that honor their respective fanbases. Both movies are straightforward action romps with little touches of creative flair - and both sit at 3.5 or over in our 5-star review scale.
So what's the deal with the low box office returns? Well, one could debate the factors ad nauseum, but a quick rundown pretty much looks like this:
- Time of release: September (Dredd) and January (Last Stand) are both times when people are getting settled back into their routines after summer/winter vacations - thereby making it easy to miss the latest film at the cineplex.
- Ticket Price: Movies are expensive, and 3D movies (Dredd) are even more expensive. Neither Dredd nor Last Stand were "sure" things upfront (hence why they were both pleasantly surprising). Home video is a $afer way to try out an uncertain prospects.
- Bad Marketing: The ad campaigns for both these films oddly enough make them look the same movie: action, bullets and tough-guy one-liners. What neither campaign tells you is that directors Jee-woon Kim (Last Stand), Pete Travis (Dredd) and their casts add the right touches to make these respective films standout in a crowded genre.
- Interest-to-commitment ratio: These films appeal to niche demographics of genre lovers - but like a Facebook party event, not everyone who signs up, shows up on release day.
- Faulty Hooks: Karl Urban was excellent as Judge Dredd - but he's not exactly a strong draw; nor is the up-charge of a 3D ticket. Last Stand was a Schwarzenegger comeback event film... that apparently wasn't much of an "event." Films need a strong draw, and these two didn't necessarily have one between them.
The question now is: can there be enough success on home video to warrant a Dredd sequel? The film's writer, Alex Garland, already laid out a blueprint for a Dredd movie trilogy - one which would continue by exploring the ethics of judging and culminate with a story involving fan-favorite foes, The Dark Juges. So the enthusiasm is there - but is the studio support?
The stories of films that sold few theater tickets but gained strong sales and acclaim on home video are now common (Fight Club, Big Lebowski, Citizen Kane and Office Space come to mind), but there is one common thread between all such examples: they didn't get sequels. Karl Urban already said that he would be perfectly fine with the final chapter being Dredd finding immortality as a cult-classic, and that's all it may turn out to be.
Still, at the risk of being completely biased: we want to see The Dark Judges; we want to see a story examining the ethics of law enforcement; and we want to see more Karl Urban under the helmet - but that's just us. What's your vote?
Dredd is now available on DVD/Blu-ray and Digital Download. For more on the film, be sure to listen to our Screen Rant Underground Dredd Podcast.