Author: Gus Baker
By the Numbers
When considering making a sequel to a film, especially to a franchise springboard, a film studio has a lot of factors to consider when judging whether or not a follow up will be financially viable. Will the original director and cast return? Is there someone to pen the screenplay? How badly do the fans want it? Most importantly, the financial success of the initial film serves as a gauge for how likely the sequel is to succeed. When greenlighting Pacific Rim: Uprising, it seems that Universal Pictures either considered none of these factors, or simply ignored the glaring warning signs that a Pacific Rim sequel was destined to flop.
Pacific Rim (2013) was the prototypical summer blockbuster of the 2013 season. It featured giant robots pitted against Kaiju (giant Godzilla like monsters) in an epic battle for control of the planet Earth. Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, it had all the grit, laughs, and charm we’ve come to associate with Del Toro’s blockbusters and great action and special effects to boot. While it was certainly not groundbreaking, Pacific Rim achieved its goal of quality summer entertainment, and enjoyed modestly successful box office returns. The key word here being “MODEST.”
On a budget of $190 Million, Pacific Rim managed to rake in a worldwide total of $411 Million. Of its gross $101.8 million was domestic while the remaining 309.2 million came in from overseas. China was the films largest market at 114.3 million, reflecting the popularity of the kaiju genre in Asia. Already these return margins are slim for a summer blockbuster, which typically needs to make more than twice its production budget to turn a profit. However, high merchandise sales and a small but dedicated fanbase kept the dream of a sequel alive and five summers later Pacific Rim: Uprising limped onto our screens. It’s nearly $300 million combined budget (~$150 million each on both production and marketing) meant that the film needed to surpass $350 million to turn a profit. Unsurprisingly, the film fell short, managed to scrape in a meager $290 million over the course of its run. Thus, Pacific Rim: Uprising failed to improve upon the success of the original (losing around $60 million in the process) and possibly even worse it failed to ignite any interest in the franchise from both new and returning fans.
Is There Any Hope?
With these numbers, it is surprising Universal decided to take a chance on a fledgling franchise with no source material and only one film entry when the response to and performance of the original film were both decidedly average. The five-year gap between the sequel and the original also hurt, as once again there was no material, new or old, to engage fans of the first film or attract new ones to the franchise. In sum, Pacific Rim: Uprising was another unnecessary attempt to create a franchise that we neither need nor want. It is the kind of failure that Universal Pictures, and other major studios, can and should learn from. If after Uprising you are still holding out hope for a trilogy my advice to you is simple: Don’t.
Box Office Numbers For Both Films Retrieved From Box Office Mojo