Director Denis Villeneuve on ‘Blade Runner 2049’s Box Office Failure

Image credit: Warner Bros.

Blade Runner 2049 is one of the most acclaimed films of the year. 

The sci-fi sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 film holds an 87% score on Rotten Tomatoes and its current IMDB audience score of 8.4 puts it a position #62 on the site’s list of the highest-rated films of all time.

And yet, audiences didn’t flock to see it. Blade Runner 2049 has raked in $US252.6 million in worldwide box office receipts. Now, that may not sound like a poor draw, but when the film’s production budget came in at around $US150 million – before marketing and distribution costs, well… it’s not good. THR reports that the film had to make $US400 million before it made a solid profit and that “Alcon Entertainment and its investors are facing about $80 million in losses”.

“I’m still digesting it,” director Denis Villeneuve, who has had a streak of critically-loved pictures, including Prisoners, Sicario and Arrival, has told Yahoo. “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.”

As for what went wrong, Villeneue has a few ideas.

“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.”

Image credit: Warner Bros.

Although he says it’s “still a mystery”, he’s likely on the right track. Scott’s original sci-fi picture certainly has its fans, and it has long been considered a masterpiece by many, but was there a willing audience keen to visit this world that had little knowledge of the first film? According to the numbers, it doesn’t seem like there was.

Then there’s the running time, which clocked in at 2 hours and 44 minutes. Put trailers and commercials in front of that and you’re asking audiences to attend a 3-hour stretch. Sure, some big studio pictures – particularly superhero films – are hitting pretty long lengths, but perhaps they have tones that make them more palatable for the average cinemagoer.

Blade Runner 2049 holds a much more languid pace and becomes almost meditational in moments as it tackles complex themes. That’s no criticism – we loved it, but it’s understandable if someone took in the more energetic action-sci-fi blockbuster angle put forth in the marketing campaign, decided to fork out cash to see it, and came away 3 hours later feeling somewhat disillusioned.

The first film didn’t spark up the box office either, but still found huge respect over the years. Looks like we have a bit of history repeating itself.

“The original Blade Runner, when it came out, wasn’t a success. And then through time it became what it is today. I wasn’t looking for that,” laughs Villeneuve. “But listen, what I am in peace with is the fact that the hardcore fans that loved the first movie really welcomed this one. And that means the world to me.”

Following a small break, Villeneuve says he will be moving onto another sci-fi epic, Dune, an adaption of Frank Herbert’s beloved 1965 novel.

You can watch Yahoo’s complete interview with Villeneuve HERE.

Image credit: Stephen Vaughan / Warner Bros.
Image credit: Stephen Vaughan / Warner Bros.

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