Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 was undeniably a critical success; the picture was lauded by the film community, and is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with a score of 87%.
It has been called a masterpiece so many times, that the language around the film is itself a news story.
Yet, despite all of this, the film was far from a box-office success.
With a production budget of $150 million, Blade Runner’s domestic earnings were a disappointing $89 million.
Although it did muster up $252 million worldwide, it’s unlikely Warner Bros. made much of a profit after the marketing budget is added in.
In a recent interview with Yahoo Entertainment, the film’s director Denis Villeneuve attempts to break down the box-office failure of his ‘masterpiece’.
“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.”
Villeneuve has touched on at least one possible reason for the box-office struggle.
Simple mathematics dictate that the longer the film, the fewer screenings available.
2049 is 2 hours and 44 minutes, so including trailers and pre-show advertising, the total in-theatre time could end up at 3 hours.
That being said, 2049 isn’t the first long film to be released, and so its problems can’t just end there.
Villeneuve also touches on another issue; familiarity with the universe.
Although the original Blade Runner (1982) is now considered one of the greats, this was a function of its subsequent director’s cut and cult status, rather than its initial release and mixed reviews.
Perhaps this is just history repeating itself; 2049 may break out on streaming and other home media, just as its predecessor did with home video.
Regardless, Villeneuve has certainly not failed; the reviews speak for themselves and 2049 will without a doubt earn Oscar nominations for the effects and photography (at least).
The box-office troubles won’t hurt his career going forward either; he’s already on to direct the next attempt at a Dune adaptation.
And one look at his previous filmography (which includes 2016’s Arrival, and 2015’s Sicario) tells you all you need to know about his future – Villeneuve is a game-changing story-teller, and he will continue to make an impression for years to come.
Check out my review of Blade Runner 2049 here.