Blade Runner 2049 is expected to be a box office flop in China. One of the year’s great commercial disappointments, Denis Villeneuve’s acclaimed, potentially Oscar-worthy sequel fell short of expectations out of the gate in North America and never recovered. It’s on track to barely make more than its huge production budget, reportedly costing as much as $185 million to make not including marketing.
The last hope for Blade Runner 2049 to make a real dent in the box office was China, which delayed its release to Oct. 27. A number of commercial hits performed much better there than in North America, most notably The Fate of The Furious. But it appears that Villeneuve’s film will not have the same kind of overseas success, with it is expected to have a similarly low opening and officially become a worldwide box office disappointment.
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Per Forbes, Blade Runner 2049 is projected to earn about 55-60 million RMB in its opening weekend in the country, which only amounts to about $8.3-9 million USD. For comparison’s sake, The Fate of the Furious and Kong: Skull Island were two of China’s biggest hits of the year with openings of $184 million and $71 million respectively. Blade Runner 2 couldn’t even beat domestic box office bomb Geostorm, which reportedly earned $9.5 million on its opening day alone.
The failure of 2049 can be chalked up to a range of factors. Chinese audiences apparently aren’t particularly interested in Villeneuve’s cerebral form of sci-fi, evidenced by the similar underperforming of 2016’s Arrival. Furthermore, the idea of replicants becoming more “human” (and those persistent Rick Deckard questions) don’t really resonate with viewers in China like it does in other cultures. All of these issues are being reported on top of similar complaints about the film’s deliberate pacing.
Ultimately, it appears that the sequel suffered a similar commercial fate to the original in part because it was never expected to be a massive hit in the first place. The first Blade Runner is more of a cult film with ambiguous narratives and themes, and Blade Runner 2049 only deepens and expands those qualities. Both films are far from the kind of pure popcorn entertainment that has thrived in China this year, as evidenced by the runaway success of films like The Fate of the Furious.
A bad box office can’t take away from the mostly strong reception that Blade Runner 2049 got from those who did see it. But as it continues to drop off the box office radar, it will now have to hope that it has more success with Blu-Ray/digital sales and rentals. That alone may not save it from what’s been a discouraging run for one of the most expensive films of the year.