Box Office: Why A 'Power Rangers' Sequel Would Be A Risky Bet
Barring a super-duper breakout performance in South Korea (April 20), China (May 12) and Japan (July 15), Power Rangers is not going to be a mega-hit that was hoped for after its big $40.3 million domestic opening weekend. That makes the notion of a sequel the very definition of a risky bet. While there is always a chance that a Power Rangers 2 could break out thanks to those who liked the first film and discovered it after theaters, it doesn't seem terribly likely. As such, barring a massive overseas gross, Power Rangers may be a one-and-done deal.
The film, which stars Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G., Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston and Bill Hader, fell 64% in weekend two and 56% in weekend three for a $75m 17-day total. The film will likely make around $90m in North America, for an over/under 2.25x multiplier. That's not good, as even the likes of X-Men (which was frontloaded in its day) earned $157m from a $54m debut weekend, or a 2.9x multiplier. And it hasn't gone nuts overseas either, with just $117m worldwide thus far with much of the world played out.
With a $110 million budget, Saban and Lionsgate will either find themselves rolling in Chinese grosses or having to make the hard choice of whether or not to make a sequel. The Dean Israelite-directed teen melodrama/sci-fi actioner is not a super flop but it's also not a mega-hit. So the decision as to whether or not to go forward with a second installment is entirely about whether there is reason to believe that a sequel can build upon the fans of both the franchise and this specific incarnation.
And as much as I like to talk about break-out sequels, the odds seem against that happening here. I liked the film more than I expected and wouldn't mind a continuation, but there are a few reasons to look upon the notion with trepidation.
First, again, the film was not (as of today) a blow-out hit. I can't speak to merchandising sales and other related factors, but the picture mostly played to those who were already excited for a big-budget Power Rangers movie and failed to expand beyond fans. Sure, a lot of folks were surprised at how good it was, and it was ironic to see the picture become the first big-scale superhero movie to include LGBT and autistic superheroes before Marvel and DC. But this wasn't a critically acclaimed wonder, earning an average Rotten Tomatoes score of 5.1/10 (47% fresh).
Let us remember that the vast majority of the so-called break-out sequels (Pitch Perfect 2, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me) were from critically acclaimed or well-reviewed originals. Me arguing for a Power Rangers sequel because I liked it carries about as much weight as you arguing for a John Carter 2 because you totally think it was an underappreciated gem. Even Transformers got good reviews the first time out.
Moreover, the vast majority of said films were incontestable hits the first time out. It's not like Shrek was some underappreciated cult hit that exploded the second time out. It legged it like a champ (a 6x multiplier) in 2001 and then broke super-duper big in 2004. And while The Twilight Saga scored with New Moon, Twilight still made $391 million worldwide on a $35m budget.
Oddly enough, the one big exception is none other than Batman Begins. Yes, the mother of all break-out sequels, which spawned a film that nearly tripled the worldwide gross of its predecessor, was not a blowout win. If you recall, Chris Nolan's somber and character-focused Batman origin story earned "just" $205 million domestic and "just" $374 million on a $150m budget.
That's not a disaster, but it's also not a blowout number in a year where Fox's Fantastic Four made $330 million global on a $100m budget and Warner's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory made $475m worldwide on a $150m budget. Even with white-hot buzz, The Dark Knight was not a foregone conclusion. Heck, in 2017, a result like that probably would have killed the franchise or resulted in Superman and Green Lantern being added to the sequel.
Yet, with the caveat that the post-theatrical market (DVDs, Blu-Rays, etc.) was a lot stronger in 2005 than it is in 2017, Batman Begins overcame a smaller-than-expected debut ($48 million Fri-Sun/$72m Wed-Sun) to leg it for the rest of the summer on the strength of strong buzz, solid word-of-mouth, and pre-release critical raves. Power Rangers got mixed-negative reviews and even with strong audience polling it still sank like a stone.
And even if the film was better received, there is no guarantee that a sequel would get a substantial upswing, as we saw with Star Trek into Darkness in 2013. Now obviously if the film pulls off Kong: Skull Island numbers in China then this is a different (and arguably even more complicated) conversation. But otherwise, Power Rangers is a film that doesn't seem terribly inclined to get a sequel. And barring my personal interest in another go-around, I'd advise against it.
A second chapter may capitalize on fan approval and post-theatrical interest, but it will also have to be quite a bit more expensive since it won't have the luxury of holding back its spectacle until the last 1//4 of the movie. It will have to make more, a lot more, here and abroad to justify its additional expense. Lionsgate has ironically done so well of late with the likes of La La Land, John Wick: Chapter 2 and Boo! A Madea Halloween that they really don't need to roll the dice on Power Rangers even though their limited exposure (around 25% of the cost including marketing) means the may make out nicely.
The film earned mixed-negative reviews and opened well by playing to the fans but failed to branch out beyond the pre-sold demographics. Even with the good buzz over its inclusive casting and character-driven approach, it still acted like a quick-kill blockbuster, with the obvious caveat that it's not exactly a blockbuster. It didn't go nuts overseas either. Aside from the fact that some folks liked it better than expected and we haven't seen its post-theatrical life yet, it meets none of the criteria for a possible breakout franchise.
My 13-year old self, who hated the old show, couldn't image enjoying a live-action Power Rangers movie to the point of wanting a sequel, but life works out in funny ways.