Blade Runner 2049 is the sequel to one of the most well-revered science fiction movies ever made. It stars two of the biggest names in Hollywood, that cover multiple generations of fans. It has a director who's on a hot streak, and has made a series of great movies. So why isn't the film doing better at the box office?
While it seems that critics almost universally love the new film, Blade Runner 2049 is following pretty closely in the footsteps of its predecessor. The original Blade Runner was not a runaway success either, which actually does go a long way to explaining why 2049 is having trouble. Here's a look at the reasons that have added up to make things difficult for the Blade Runner sequel, from what we can tell.
Not Everybody Has Actually Seen Blade Runner
The simple fact is that when Blade Runner was first released in theaters, the film struggled. While the movie is being called a classic today, and justifiably so, it wasn't a huge hit. But has everybody really gone back to actually watch the original? The short answer is no. Especially in the demographic that tends to go to the theater the most often, there are probably a lot of people who've never sat down with the original. Even if you know the original is supposed to be a great film, if you've never actually watched it, you're not going to run out to see the sequel.
It's Not An Action Blockbuster
Certainly, movies don't need to be action heavy to be successful. However, in the realm of science fiction, that does tend to be the case. While both Blade Runner films have their share of action, that's far from what they're about. These are serious, dramatic, science fiction stories that try to ask important questions about the nature of humanity. That can go far with film critics, but it doesn't necessarily do the same thing at the box office. Blade Runner 2049 has seen box office weekends on par with what Arrival, Denis Villeneuve's last science fiction drama, had done by this point. This is just how these movies do.
If there's one thing that you've heard about Blade Runner 2049, it may be that the movie is long. At nearly three hours, going to see it is a significant time investment, and when you take the two previous points into account, it's possible that people just weren't excited about a dramatic philosophical movie that lasted that long. Now we know why director Denis Villeneuve said there wouldn't need to be a Director's Cut of this one, there probably isn't much unused footage to include. People may want to wait to see this when they have easier access to a bathroom.
Most Of Those That Loved The Original Saw It On TV
At the end of the day, the fact is that the original Blade Runner came out 30 years ago. That's a long time to wait for a sequel. Even if you've seen the first film and even if you loved it, are you going to run out to the theater to see the sequel? The odds are that the vast majority never saw the original on the big screen, so they don't necessarily view it as the sort of experience they need to have that way. Perhaps Blade Runner 2049 will do much better when it comes out on Blu-Ray and digital download.
Just Because Blade Runner Is A Classic Doesn't Mean Everybody Cares
Movies become cinematic "classics" for all sorts of reasons. While people might be in general agreement that the original Blade Runner is a "great" film, that doesn't mean people will be lining up to see the sequel. You can appreciate a film's contributions without even actually liking it. People can accept the idea that a movie is great without ever seeing it. Lots of people can appreciate the special effects advancements made in the original Tron, but that doesn't mean the sequel is going to draw in massive crowds. It's called a cult classic for a reason, the actual audience might still be small.