Although reboots, remakes and revivals have become increasingly popular in recent years, they are still chancy propositions in some ways. Successful revivals and sequels draw people in with cool casts and memorable nods to the original movies, and while Blade Runner 2049 has draws like Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling to back it, the movie's murky advertising and more may have put people off. When Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve was recently asked about his regrets with how Blade Runner 2049 was marketed and how the box office has panned out, he had the following to say:
As a filmmaker, I'm not arrogant. People put a lot of money in the movie to allow me to make something like Blade Runner. They trusted me, and they gave me a lot of freedom, and they are friends. So of course I want the movie to be a success at the end of the day. It's a long journey, but I want them not to lose money.
By all accounts, the studio put a lot of trust in Denis Villeneuve but that trust isn't necessarily translating into box office numbers. The movie had an incredibly large budget ($150+ million) and has thus far failed to make a slew of money on that budget, but from what Denis Villeneuve told Vulture, that obviously wasn't the goal. So far, Blade Runner 2049 has only made a little over $74 million domestically on a $150 million budget (not counting advertising), and while the movie has made an additional $120 million worldwide, the studios make less money on foreign releases, meaning Blade Runner 2049 has not been the big budget win that Warner Bros./ Sony were likely hoping it would be. Still, if you look at the reviews for Blade Runner 2049, they tell a different story. People have been wowed by the story, commenting about Roger Deakins' cinematography and how the sequel to a 35-year-old movie works better than it has every right to be. However, there could be several reasons why that didn't translate into the numbers.
Although a movie like Blade Runner 2049 has brand recognition built in, the original film was always a cult favorite--not a widespread success--and it didn't make a slew of money when it was originally released into theaters back in 1982. So, Blade Runner 2049 may not have had the built-in fanbase that some other revivals and sequels have. Despite this, when Arrival director Denis Villeneuve was signed on to helm Blade Runner 2049, the studio gave the director free reign to do so, even letting the marketing keep from being too spoilery. The movie is filled with twists and turns and even has a romantic component that could have pulled in viewers that are more casual fans of sci fi projects, but none of that was mentioned in the marketing.
Director Denis Villeneuve previously stated that he knew the window for success with Blade Runner 2049 was narrow but that he felt the script worked and he wanted to do the project, noting,
I came on board because the script was very strong. But no matter what you do, no matter how good what you're doing is, the film will always be compared to the first, which is a masterpiece. So I made peace with that.
In this case, it doesn't seem as if the movie was a miss or didn't live up to the expectations of fans. The bigger problem may lie with the fact that the studio put a huge chunk of money behind the movie to get it made. If Blade Runner 2049 had a smaller budget, we might be having a different conversation right now.