How Hollywood’s Decades-Later Sequels Stack Up
Harrison Ford appears destined to reappear as much-aged versions of the characters that made him a star: Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and now Blade Runner’s Rick Deckard. These decades-later followups rarely match the box office power of the original when inflation is taken into account.
That pattern was evident with both Star Wars (38 years between A New Hope and The Force Awakens) and Indiana Jones (27 years between Raiders of the Lost Ark andKingdom of the Crystal Skull). Now Blade Runner 2049, with its 35-year gap between Blade Runner and the newly released sequel, hopes to avoid that fate. It’s off to a slow start, taking in a disappointing $31.5 million in its opening weekend in North America, according to an estimate by ComScore.
Movie studios have made the reboot tactic commonplace: Take an old franchise steeped in fan nostalgia, revive it with an ample budget for stars and modern special effects, and hope to score big. Blade Runner 2049 cost $150 million to produce, not including marketing costs, and the opening box office take fell short of expectations, despite glowing reviews from critics. It still might be the rare example of later-date followup that outperforms the original at the inflation-adjusted box office, in larger part because 1982’s Blade Runner wasn’t a huge success and gained a hardcore following only after its initial run.
These followup films are often sold as soft reboots. Rather than resetting the series entirely, they maintain the storyline continuity from previous films, either as a prequel or sequel often set many years away from the original. The category includes revamps of such cult films as Blade Runner and Evil Dead as well as extensions of commercial powerhouses such as Star Wars and Rocky. Few of these films following decades after the original title totally bomb at the box office, helped by preexisting fan bases loyal to the franchise.
But a look at inflation-adjusted ticket sales data, which includes sales from multiple releases, casts doubt on the ability of these soft reboots to pull in more viewers than the initial title. Most come up short at the domestic box office compared with their hugely successful predecessors.