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Ender's Game was the easy champion of the weekend box office, netting $28 million and a first-place finish. And while $28 million is a hefty amount for many films, it's not that gigantic for a film with a reported budget of $110 million. And as THR reports from several analysts, it's not the kind of money that immediately leads to a sequel.
Surprisingly enough, it's among young adults-- the target audience for Orson Scott Card's original novel-- who are holding it back. Analyst Eric Handler pointed out that 54% of the audience was above the age of 25, rare for any effects heavy would-be blockbuster but especially rare for one based on a young adult novel. Handler also cites the CinemaScore of B+, which suggests that while some fans were happy enough with what they saw, not enough will recommend the film to friends or see it again. Another analyst, Matthew Harrigan, put it more bluntly: "Ender's Game has a credible $28 million U.S. opening but not a plausible start of a new franchise for Summit Entertainment and OddLot."
Like the other franchises that have made the names of Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate (now the same company), Ender's Game comes with built-in follow-ups-- Card wrote five more books starring Ender, as well as five others called the "Shadow series" about other character within the universe. That's way more content than either of Lionsgate-Summit's other hit franchises, The Hunger Games and The Twilight Saga, which means it could have avoided gross money-stretching ideas like splitting Mockingjay into two parts. But most of the Ender books were published in a vastly different, pre-Harry Potter, where new young adult books weren't published in a sea of hype and nobody thought much about would-be franchises. And, as indicated by the demographics of last weekend's audiences, even the people who did feverishly anticipate new books about Ender Wiggin have since grown up-- they may want to check out Ender's Game, but they might be waiting until their kids drag them to Catching Fire.
Ender's Game has only opened in Austria, Germany and the United Kingdom thus far for a foreign total of $9.1 million, which means that overseas grosses could tip it over into the "hit" column. But for now, it's strong success that isn't quite strong enough to keep Ender on the big screen. Let us know in the comments if you saw Ender's Game over the weekend, and if you'll keep rooting for the sequels until someone actually confirms they're not happening.