Hollywood B.O.: Second 'Ghost Rider'? Road Kill
How bad must a $100-million-grossing movie be before studios nix a sequel? Is there a limit? Some kind of badness ratio that indicates dropping interest? A point where caveat emptor (buyer beware) becomes caveat vendito (seller beware)?
The first “Ghost Rider,” starring Nicholas Cage, was released Presidents' Day weekend 2007 and grossed $45 million in three days and $52 million in four. It was No. 1 at the box office by a long shot. The next weekend it dropped more than 55 percent—bad, but hardly the worst second-weekend drop ever—and by the end of its run, its overall domestic gross was $115 million: barely twice what it grossed in its first four days. So there were a few warning signs. Plus its Rotten Tomatoes rating of 27% was only that high because of so-called positive reviews like this one from Dave White at MSN.com:
By any real-world standard, this is a stupid piece of junk. But it's very good at being a stupid piece of junk.
Five years later, Presidents' Day weekend 2012, the sequel no one asked for, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vegeance,” was distributed by Sony, who dumped it into more than 3,000 theaters despite a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 17%. Even so, the movie was expected to do ... OK. It might not draw as many moviegoers (“Fool me once,” etc.), and Cage has gone from star to punchline during that time, but prices were higher, and 3-D prices were even higher than that, and both would cover some of the ground lost.
Instead “Spirit of Vegeance” finished third for the weekend, grossing $22 million in three days. It got beat by the second weekends of “Safe House” and “The Vow.” GR lost his roar.
Could Sony have prevented all of this? Were there clues that the franchise, such as it was, had run its course, such as it was? Some measurement beyond RT ratings and second-weekend drops and opening-weekend-to-domestic-totals ratios?
I'm serious. I come not to mock Sony but to help them. And us.
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