The timing of The Hollywood Reporter’s report on a Jungle Cruise sequel probably isn’t a coincidence. The film will debut on “$30 to own” electronic sell-through on all relevant VOD platforms (Google, Vudu, iTunes, YouTube, Amazon, etc.) starting tomorrow, after a month in global theatrical release and “$30 to lease” availability on Disney+ “Premier Access.” It also just topped $100 million at the domestic box office. We know the movie earned $30 million on “opening weekend” via the Disney+ option. We know that the Dwayne Johnson/Emily Blunt comic fantasy earned $187 million worldwide, which under normal circumstances would be pretty terrible for a $200 million would-be franchise starter, even one with decent reviews, solid buzz and strong post-debut legs. So, is Jungle Cruise successful enough to spawn a sequel, or is the announcement of a sequel intended to make you think it was a success?
If that sounds oddly paranoid, well, that’s part of the “new normal.” Disney announced (and eventually locked in) a sequel for Emma Stone’s Cruella right at the start of the film’s third weekend in theaters. Now that well-liked and buzzy 1970’s fashionista crime caper has thus far earned $225 million worldwide on a $100 million budget. That’s not a barn burner, but A) it may well have earned about that much in standard times, and B) it did earn *something* on Disney+ and via secondary VOD revenue windows. However, a film earning 2.25x your budget in theatrical during a pandemic is different than a film earning barely 1x your budget in theatrical during a pandemic. And it’s not like studios have never announced “may never happen” sequels before as a way of creating the illusion of success.
Paramount announced that Chris Hemsworth would return (as Kirk’s dead dad) in Star Trek 4 days before Star Trek Beyond opened to eventually poor ($338 million on a $180 million budget) theatrical business. Warner Bros. announced Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins returning for a third Wonder Woman concurrently with the film’s opening weekend box office report. That made the film’s $16.7 million domestic debut (better than hoped during bleak Covid times) and HBO Max premiere seem like a success. After all, if WB was happy enough to greenlight a sequel, it was surely a huge win? Unless, of course, Wonder Woman was almost always going to get a threequel, since if it didn’t, it would be proof that WB kneecapped one of its biggest franchises (which would have surely earned $650-$850 million global in standard times) as a sacrificial lamb for HBO Max.
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