Will ‘Blade Runner 2049’ Be the Next ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’?

What should the studio expect at the box office?

Blade Runner 2049 Box Office Opening
What should the studio expect from ‘Blade Runner 2049’ at the box office? Stephen Vaughan/Alcon Entertainment

If Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t earn at least $400 million worldwide, film studio Alcon Entertainment will be in very serious trouble. So is that goal attainable? Let’s break it down.

Deadline is reporting that tracking numbers suggest a domestic opening of $45 million and a worldwide opening of $100 million. Considering that it’s a hard R-rated film, that’s not bad at all. However, Blade Runner 2049 carries with it a production budget of $155 million, with insiders telling Deadline that the real number is closer to $175 million. Given that, you’d like to see a slightly higher take. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that internal estimates over at Sony peg the opening closer to $48 million to $52 million.

Working in the film’s favor are its two strong leads with through-the-roof recency bias appeal in Ryan Gosling (coming off the Oscar-winning La La Land) and original star Harrison Ford (coming off Star Wars: The Force Awakens). Director Denis Villeneuve is one of the best filmmakers in all of Hollywood and the 35-year-old property should have cross-generational appeal. Most importantly, the film is being universally lauded by critics as one of the best movies of 2017.

However, it’s also a dense sci-fi meditation that runs close to three hours, limiting the amount of showings theaters can post in a single day. It also has a handful of still-running and new movie competition that will nibble into its total take.

The best case scenario would be for Blade Runner 2049 to play like Mad Max: Fury Road, another requel of a popular 1980s property that posted solid box office numbers and garnered several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Fury Road opened to $45.4 million domestic before going on to earn $378.8 million worldwide, per Box Office Mojo. While not a perfect comparison—Fury Road was a shorter movie in a longer-running franchise—this would be a solid marker of success for 2049.

Let’s assume the Gosling-Ford flick carries the same multiplier as Fury Road (3.3x), approximates the same domestic/overseas splits (40 percent vs 60 percent) and opens on the higher end of expectations ($50 million). By that logic, we’re looking at a domestic total of over/under $165 million and an overseas gross of around $248 million (which is asking a lot of foreign markets). In this scenario, we get a worldwide gross of over/under $413 million, meeting Alcon’s needs. That’s fine and dandy…and likely optimistic

If 2049 opens around Deadline’s $45 million expectations, it may struggle to cross the $400 million mark. If that were the case, Alcon would still be praised for delivering a critically acclaimed feature (Villeneuve’s Arrival snuck into the Best Picture race last year), but would probably ending up losing money. Realistically, the movie may play more like Tron: Legacy, which did well in the U.S. ($172 million off a $44 million opening), but slowed down overseas ($228 million). If that were the case, Blade Runner 2049 may finish its run right around the $400 million mark, but it’ll be close.

So let’s hope for the best, but temper our expectations with this pricey endeavor.

Will ‘Blade Runner 2049’ Be the Next ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’?