From a box office perspective, prospects for a sequel to Ender's Game - Gavin Hood's big-screen adaptation of Orson Scott Card's classic science fiction novel - look somewhat bleak. Only a week into its theatrical run, the film has made back a reasonable but ultimately light estimate of roughly $41 million out of its purported $110 million budget; that leaves it with a pretty steep hill to climb just to break even. That's not enough to doom a potential follow-up, of course, but it's certainly enough to make a shrewd studio like Lionsgate play their cards close to the vest.
And that appears to be exactly what they're doing. According to Lionsgate's CEO, Jon Feltheimer, the company plans to wait a couple more weeks at most before deciding on how to move ahead with a potential Ender's Game movie franchise. No doubt he and his analysts want to observe and track box office revenue to see how Hood's film performs as it begins competing against real-deal heavy hitters like Marvel's Thor: The Dark World, and make an informed choice about a sequel green-light from there - which could mean a TV spin-off.
Variety ran the announcement earlier this morning, though the extent of detail Feltheimer could give was unfortunately limited. At a glance, it sounds like a spin-off would serve as an alternative to further movies, which makes a good deal of sense on paper; in the novel series, everything from Speaker for the Dead onwards grows more cerebral and less cinematic by the page. Alternately, a spin-off could be used as a supplement to additional films, though that scenario is far less likely, given Lionsgate's internal discussions about the future of the series.
So, in other words, we're right back to where we were just a few days ago, when Hood weighed in on the direction he thought a second Ender's Game flick might take. The only difference now is that the prognosis for that film looks even more tenuous than before, and it's unlikely that Ender's Game will keep doing the sort of business it's done to date, as bigger pictures with far larger audiences start making their debuts in American theaters. (Save for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which is part of the Lionsgate stable, too.)
If Lionsgate uses the next fourteen days as a barometer for gauging the merits of starting production on Speaker of the Dead - or on the "Fleet School" novels Card is penning as we speak - then it's probably fair to assume nothing will come of it. Whether that means the studio will close the books on Card's universe or continue to look into bringing their interpretation of his work to television is another question entirely. TV could be a really good home for the intricacies of Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind - though a potential show would have to fill in some of the character gaps left in Hood's film, especially those concerning Valentine Wiggin.
But we'll have to wait and see how Ender's Game fares while it's still just an individual title doing the rounds in multiplexes across the country. Let us know what you think: is this a movie that deserves the sequel treatment, or should Lionsgate just stop at one adaptation and move on?
_____Ender's Game is currently in theaters.