Remember the Eva Green controversy on the poster for Sin City 2 earlier this summer? Neither did anyone else. “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” bombed at the box office over the weekend earning around $6 million. It missed its opening weekend projection by at least $10 million more. Luckily it received a B- grade from CinemaScore, so it could’ve been much worse.
That mediocre grade is hardly something to celebrate. Sure enough Sin City 2 ended the summer movie season. We won’t see big opening weekends for a while as the movies fade and summer ends.
The failure of Sin City 2 goes well beyond the release date, length of time between both movies, and the competition (people weren’t skipping an R-rated movie for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles“). There are some other considerations for the demise as well as some warnings for the industry to keep in mind.
1. Learn From the Mistakes of Others
A similar poor opening weekend happened to “Kick Ass 2,” which also opened in a late August weekend. Both were vile and violent comic book adaptations for adults that had their passionate supporters which broke into the mainstream.
However, they surprised in the spring which doesn’t translate to summer sequel success. Both were sequels no one demanded and the industry misunderstood their popularity. Both under-performed, if not bombed. Critics and audiences weren’t amused the second time around.
2. Consider Your Audience
The studio probably didn’t predict this very well. Males were going to show up, but fan boys aren’t as reliable as Hollywood imagines. They have limited engagement and are fickle in their commitment.
You must have an audience beyond the Austin film scene in order to succeed. Robert Rodriguez has a cult following but Machete 2 tanked last year, too.
Deadline.com even implied that the social media clout from Lady Gaga and Jessica Alba could mean success for Sin City 2. Eva Green is supposedly a hot commodity. How silly. Part of this audience was watching “Guardians of the Galaxy“ for the fifth time.
3. Bad Timing
Between the Islamic beheadings, Gaza violence, Ebola outbreak, and Ferguson protests, the news is bad enough. People aren’t going to flock to the grim and dark Sin City 2 for escape.
This is a tough subject matter to digest as summer entertainment. Plus, the stylistic novelty wore off since many movies are shot to look like Sin City. It certainly has influenced other Frank Miller style of filmmaking.
If you are going to make a movie for this niche audience at least keep the budget low because the ROI will be a big loss.
4. Start With a Trial Run
This sounds crazy, but it isn’t. The disastrous performance of Sin City 2 justifies a limited release. I shouldn’t encourage this in an industry in need of edgy content. At the same time, studios face realities.
The bad box office of Sin City 2 brings to mind the disconnect “The Raid” and “The Raid 2” faced with low box office despite the online chatter and a sizable expansion (950 theaters).
Even though Sin City was a wide release, it doesn’t mean the sequel always should (“Piranha 3DD”). In fact, IFC’s “risky” “Boyhood” will probably gross more than Sin City 2! This could be true even for “Begin Again” and “A Man Most Wanted,” too. Let that sink in.
Conclusion: Summer sequels with dark themes for very niche audiences is a risky investment.
Kenny Miles is a contributing author at themovieblog.com and a member of the Denver Film Critics Society. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @kmiles723