The long-time-coming adaptation of Orson Scott Card's 1985 novel "Ender's Game" didn't exactly blast off at the box office over the weekend, earning just $28 million against its reported $110 million budget. Those receipts, however, were enough to launch the sci-fi film into the #1 spot domestically, besting fellow newcomers "Last Vegas" and "Free Birds."
The kiddie space cadet's tale doesn't end with "Ender's Game," however. In fact, Card wrote a number of sequels, including the 1986 follow-up "Speaker for the Dead," which follows a 30-something Andrew Wiggin as he joins a human colony on the planet Lusitania. Card also recently announced his intention to write a spin-off series that would take place in a post-war world. All of which raises the question: Should movie-goers expect a sequel?
Not unless the film rebounds at the box office, experts say.
"It's difficult to assign a specific dollar amount to the notion of moving forward with a sequel," Phil Contrino, BoxOffice.com vice president/chief analyst, told MTV News. "There are two things that need to happen for a sequel to be justified: 1) word of mouth has to be strong and a passionate fanbase needs to spring up, and 2) overseas receipts have to be healthy. Films do not get sequels in this climate without succeeding overseas."
Fellow box-office watchers Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru editor, and Jeff Bock, Exhibitor Relations box-office analyst, were more willing to quantify the issue, citing $100 million domestically as the sequel sweet spot, while agreeing that overseas returns would be key.
" 'Ender's Game' had a solid opening, however it debuted with similar numbers as 'John Carter' and 'After Earth,' neither of which approached $100 million domestically," Bock said. "In this day and age, spending $100 million-plus on a film, combined with the massive [publicity and advertising] campaign that goes along with a potential blockbuster, means studios, at the very least, need to recoup their budgets in North America and double it overseas.
"Ultimately, a worldwide gross of $300 million would be the number which to start sequel discussions, but $400 million would be more likely," he continued. "Sci-fi films have routinely grossed more abroad lately, but many of those had the advantage of 3-D, which 'Ender's Game' does not. The format is wildly popular overseas, and it seems like an oversight for Summit not to offer that format internationally."
Ender's prospects for a strong second week don't look too bright, though, as he faces some of Earth's mightiest competition in the form of "Thor: The Dark World," which opens November 8.
" 'Thor: The Dark World' will definitely hurt 'Ender's Game,' " Contrino said. "Both films are going after males, aged 18-34, and there's little doubt that 'Thor: The Dark World' is the stronger film. It will benefit immensely from the popularity of 'Marvel's The Avengers' and 'Iron Man 3.' "
Bock agreed: "Unfortunately, with 'Thor: The Dark World' dropping its mighty hammer in U.S. theaters next weekend, there won't be much of the box-office pie left for 'Ender's Game.' So, in other words, it looks like 'Ender's Game' is one-and-done. The franchise ends here. Sorry, Ender."