With around $42.1 million after seven days of domestic release, will surpass the $43.037m domestic total of the original sometime today. With a holiday-enhanced second weekend expected to snag around $20m in four days, bringing the Keanu Reeves vehicle’s 11-day total to $62m, the Summit/Lionsgate action-er is indeed a clear-cut example of a break-out sequel. It opened with more than twice ($30.4m) the debut weekend ($14.4m) of the first film and is on course to at least double its predecessor’s domestic gross as well. The lesson is pretty clear: If you want audiences to show up for your sequel, make sure that they actually liked the first film.
You would think that would be obvious. After all, at its core, a movie generally gets a sequel because it made decent money, was well-received by the ticket-buying public, and/or had a substantial post-theatrical following. But in this era where having multiple would-be franchises on the board is crucial for shareholders and the media as the prime definition of studio health, we’ve seen a lot of preordained franchises get kneecapped when audiences didn’t quite embrace the initial product or continued despite evidence of audience disinterest.
Sequels to and were announced and dated before those films came out and disappointed. Would-be producers of a would-be movie announced ahead-of-time that not only are we getting a movie (we’ll see) but we’re getting as if the word “trilogy” makes everyone presume that the first film will be just as good as . Universal pressed on with planned before even opened, despite everyone raising the red flag about making a sequel sans Snow White, both because the first film wasn’t terribly well-received and because losing the female action lead negated the core appeal of the first movie.
Comparatively, is an old-school “earned it” sequel. It only got a sequel because audiences embraced the first film and expressed a desire to see an additional installment.
Moreover, we used to have more break-out sequels because we used to have more surprise franchises. Few saw becoming both a leggy hit ($53 million domestic off a $9m debut weekend) and an incredibly popular rental. Few predicted that would become a trend-setting smash hit or that Walt Disney’s would become one of the best movies of that summer. So when you get these surprisingly good, and word-of-mouth fueled hits, you have audiences primed to show up for the next installment in comparative droves.
For example, Matt Damon’s was a well-reviewed and leggy hit in the summer of 2002. It grossed $121 million domestic from a $27m debut weekend and $214m worldwide on a $60m budget but also becoming 2003’s most rented DVD title. So two years later, capitalized on that goodwill and snagged a $52m opening weekend towards an eventual $288m worldwide total on a $75m budget. Other examples exist even in the world of explicit IP, such as (a $54m debut for the first film, an $85m debut for the sequel) and (a $72m Wed-Sun debut for and a $158m Fri-Sun debut for ).
Oh, and let’s not forget Summit’s which more-than-doubled the first ’s debut with a near-record $142 million opening in November of 2009. By the way, doubling the opening weekend of your initial installment is still quite rare, especially outside of the realm of cheap comedies. Yet in an era defined by explicit IP-driven would-be blockbusters, with much of that IP being refurbished variations of already successful cinematic franchises, there is less room for surprise hits and more examples of franchise launchers peaking the first time out. So you have odd situations like and the reboot which basically peaked (domestically) in their initial installment despite being well-received and leggy.
And you have fewer chances for the likes of an under-the-radar teen girl-targeted comedy that became a part of pop culture, or which basically started a new sub-genre of action movie (aging male actor embarks on a righteous action-driven quest, a sub-genre which arguably perfected). Said Anna Kendrick/Rebel Wilson comedy pulled a the second time out, making more on its opening weekend ($69 million in 2015) than the first film made total ($65m in 2012). And while didn’t quite pull off that trick, it took just eight days to surpass the entire domestic total of its leggy and well-received predecessor.
The original was something of a rarity in that it was a genuine sleeper hit that started small and frankly ended small enough to actually have room to expand. Its relative success and the knockout performance (thus far) of its sequel is valuable in that it is a reminder of what a sequel is supposed to be. got solid reviews, had a decent opening and snagged a leggy theatrical and post-theatrical run because it was good and audiences liked it. Thus, we now have a sequel that audiences have embraced because they liked the first one, wanted to see more, and because said sequel delivered in terms of quality. That used to be how this all worked.