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We have been engaging in a number of interesting conversations regarding sequels, as they apply to the current summer blockbuster season. Certain sequels – like Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World -- seem to be earning the right to continue telling their story, earning more than enough at the box office to justify exploring where BD Wong flew off to near the end of this adventure. Others – and I’m looking in the general direction of Terminator: Genisys -- failed to ignite the North American box office, leaving their potential future in jeopardy.
Where, though, does that leave the lithe, limber and lovable male strippers from Gregory Jacobs’ Magic Mike XXL? The sequel to Steven Soderbergh’s surprise indie hit earned far less in its opening frame ($11 million over three days, and $26 million over 5 days) than its immediate predecessor, which banked a healthy $39.1M back in 2012, en route to a $113M domestic total. Even more distressing is the fact that Magic Mike XXL earned far fewer supportive reviews from the same critics who embraced the original, and helped turn it in to a smash hit. Jacobs’ sequel, which he inherited from Soderbergh (but worked closely with the director to bring to the screen), currently has a 64% grade on the popular aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. The original film powered to a robust 80%.
What happened? It’s hard to pinpoint, exactly. Most critics didn’t plug into the shaggy road-trip format of the new movie, which had Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer and the boys traveling from Tampa to Myrtle Beach for an annual stripper’s convention. However, the movie’s marketing played up exactly what it seemed that audiences – particularly female audiences – loved about the first movie: male dancing. And lots of it.
But this time, less people were interested. Strike that: less men were interested. As we reported, the statistics on Magic Mike XXL’s opening weekend showed that 96% of the audience was female. But the sequel couldn’t appeal beyond that willing demographic… and, unlike with Terminator: Genisys, this likely means that it’s the end of the road for Mike and his crew.
Why? Because Magic Mike XXL, as much as I enjoyed it, wasn’t made because the next chapter of the story needed to be told. Nor was the sequel a cash grab, by any stretch. You could just tell that the team behind the second movie wanted to see if the same audiences who checked out the original wanted to spend more time with the glistening, glittery and oiled-up dudes of the dancers’ stage. Costs were kept in check in case of a sophomore slump. But XXL isn’t part of a larger story. It was as much of an experiment as the first movie, an attempt to answer the question, "Hey, just how far can we take this series?" The answer now appears to be, "Two movies, tops."
Channing Tatum has been saying all along that the fate of a third Magic Mike movie would be in the hands of the fans, and Joe Manganiello cleverly teased the possibility of a 3D sequel. Alas, unless Magic Mike XXL shows incredible legs over the next few weeks – against looming competition like Ant-Man, Trainwreck and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation -- the cast will move on to the likes of Gambit movies, Jump Street sequels and various other projects. Don’t cry for the gyrating, undulating dudes of the Magic Mike two-fer, is what I’m saying. But do wonder what might have been, if more people skipped Jurassic World for the fifth time and danced the night away, instead.