Box Office Film

Box Office: How White House Down Might Have Saved Us From an Independence Day 3

The verdict is in: Independence Day: Resurgence‘s opening weekend was very not good.

From Forbes (updated by me with the actual figures instead of estimated):

There is a certain irony in the fact that 20th Century Fox will be counting on the rest of the world to pull Independence Day: Resurgence out of the box office fire. The domestic opening weekend was a frankly terrible $41 million, less than the $50m Fri-Sun debut of the first film back in 1996. The film earned $99.5m in 57 overseas markets over the last five days as well, bringing its total opening weekend to $140.5m. Even with $15.8m in IMAX alone, including a record-breaking (for Fox) $10m in overseas IMAX grosses, that’s not good.

We have two scenarios in play. The best case scenario is that it performs closer to Roland Emmerich’s (vastly superior) White House Down (same weekend in 2013 and with a 3x weekend-to-final multiplier) and legs it to $124 million domestic.

But it’s just as likely that the fat lady has already sung and that the sequel will go quietly into the night and/or will vanish without a fight.  If it plays like Transformers: Age of Extinction (which opened with $100 million on the same weekend in 2014 and closed with $245m), it will end up with $102m domestic, or less than the first film’s $104m debut back in 1996 (and in 2D). Transformers: Age of Extinction ended up with over $1 billion thanks to strong worldwide play (including $320m in China). That’s presumably not going to happen here. A comparable performance gets the Jeff Goldblum/Liam Hemsworth sequel to just $458m worldwide on a $165-$200m budget. If it performs like 2012, it gets to $106m domestic and $491m worldwide.

Thanks to Warcraft, the true impact of a soft opening weekend in the U.S./Canada seems like less of an insta-killer than usual, but ask RoboCop, Terminator: Genisys, Pacific Rim and Edge of Tomorrow how well those international market-mandated sequels they’re supposed to be making are coming along. The first two are officially dead, and the last two are in that “we haven’t heard anything new about them in a while” category. A strong international showing can save your bottom line but it won’t necessarily salvage your dreams of building a franchise. You might get the chance to at least write a script, but next thing you know the studio execs. are dragging their feet and you’re having to answer endless questions about where you are with the sequel.

Jeff-Goldblum-and-Liam-Hemsworth-in-Independence-Day-ResurgenceThat’s the future facing Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich and whoever’s in charge of Fox now (at last check, that would be Stacy Snyder after she pulled off quite the coup). They spent upwards of $165m million on a sequel to what was once the second highest-grossing film of all time, and even with the luxury of higher ticket prices, 3D and IMAX they still couldn’t beat what that film made in its opening weekend 20 years ago. Fox will undoubtedly single out the overall money Resurgence made worldwide (or in individual foreign markets), but is it really going to be saved by the international money when it couldn’t even beat Now You See Me 2 in China ($43.3m for the latter vs. Resurgence‘s $37.3m)?

But this could be worse. So much worse.

Remember this date: November 26, 2014. That’s when both the best and worst thing possible happened for Resurgence. Worst? Fox officially gave it the greenlight. That wouldn’t seem like the obvious candidate for “worst thing,” but now that Resurgence is here so many of us who have seen it agree we’d all have been better off if the movie had never been made. So, what’s the best thing? Fox only gave the greenlight for one new Independence Day movie, not two.

Independence-Day-2-Resurgence-Super-Bowl-AdThink of it this way: you know how it’s currently super awkward that WB is making Justice League with Zack Snyder even though he just majorly dropped the ball with Batman v Superman? If not for a surprising display of fiscal restraint, Fox could very easily be in the same situation with Resurgence‘s Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich right now. WB is screwed because they planned an entire cinematic universe off of the assumption that everyone would love BvS, and when they were proven wrong they were already in too deep to turn back. If Devlin and Emmerich had had their way, Fox would have already committed to a third Independence Day movie. In fact, the second and third movies would have been filmed back-to-back and been released in consecutive years.

That was the plan back in March 2013 when Emmerich told EW the long-gestating sequel had been split into two different films titled  ID Forever Part 1 and ID Forever Part II. Resurgence still maintains this basic structure, as its quite clearly meant to lead directly into a sequel, but by late 2014 Fox cooled on the notion of doing The Matrix/Lord of the Rings thing for Independence Day.

What happened? The summer of 2013’s parade of big budget bombs taught Hollywood to tighten its belt a little more. One such bomb was Roland Emmerich’s own White House Down, which ended with just $205m worldwide on a $150m budget. That (in combination with Will Smith’s After Earth) wreaked havoc on Sony’s stock value. And here’s Emmerich going across the street and asking Fox to give him the reigns to not one but two big-budget movies?

Even without White House Down‘s failure Fox might have still found it imprudent to invest so heavily in Emmerich and the ID4 franchise. However, it likely factored into their decision, and as a result we are now left to ponder the grim prospects of a sequel as opposed to having another Justice League sideshow on our hands.

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