Here are some of my picks for sequels with sadly disappointing box office results:
Just a warning, the post will be pretty long.
Kung Fu Panda 2 & Kung Fu Panda 3 - As a huge fan of the entire franchise, I need to point this out: The first film was a surprise hit back in 2008, with $215M DOM & nearly $632M WW. It had also great reviews from critics with 87% on RT, praising it’s beautiful animation, emotional story and memorable characters. And the audience loved it as well. Kudos to the great performances, especially Jack Black as the main character, Po. And due to that film’s success..it was inevitable that Dreamworks Animation had another great franchise in their hands. Quality-wise, they delivered. In terms of box office though, it was complicated.
While not a bad DOM-gross for KFP2, it only made $165M DOM, though luckily the film did increase a bit WW-wise, with $665M WW, thanks to a large gross from China with over $90M+ over there (a time where China was just getting started with phenomenal box office grosses), back in 2011. And like the first one, it was a really well-liked and well-received sequel with 81%. This wasn’t the only big summer blockbuster that opened on a Memorial Day Weekend, since this family film was released on the same weekend as another blockbuster with a counterprogramming, the R-rated comedy sequel know as The Hangover: Part 2 and that one fared better DOM-wise with $254M DOM. While not the best DOM-performance for an animated sequel, it’s not a terrible one either.
But then came the third one, which I thought easily would be one of the heavy-hitting blockbusters of 2016. Like the last two films, it was once again very well-liked and well-received by audiences and critics alike, praising the same elements that made both it’s predecessors great animated films, with an 87% on RT, same as the first film. Sadly, this is where the good parts end. Unfortunately, KFP3’s box office did not justify the positive reception it had.
And you know what the saddest part is about KFP3’s box office is? It’s that this had everything in it’s power to be a huge hit, even bigger than the last two films. It was released in the January, which normally wouldn’t be much of a blockbuster month perse..but with the enormous success of Clint Eastwood’s War/Drama-film “American Sniper”, which that made $350M DOM & $547M WW, then any movie released in January, can do great. So I was all high on Po’s third cinematic appearance. It had everything to go big. What could go wrong? Well...It underperformed yet again, that’s what went wrong. While it didn’t drop too much DOM-wise from the second one, it only made $143M DOM, which is even lower than an original Dreamworks-film that came out the year before, called “Home” which was released at March 2015. That film made $177M DOM, which was better than what Po’s third film did. However, the heartbreaking box office tragedy about KFP3’s gross, was it’s WW-gross. It only made $521M WW, which was lower than the previous films. While the last two films film at least made over between $630-670M WW, this one did not. It’s $377M OS was even lower than the first film’s $416M back in 2008, despite China giving the third one the biggest gross in the franchise from Po’s native homeland. Maybe the near 5 years wait, wasn’t probably the best idea...but in my theory...i think the bigger cause of KFP3’s underperformance was that it was sadly ignored by by a mass audience. In a decade where we had animated sequels/prequels/spin-offs that were large $1B-blockbusters like Minions Despicable Me 3, Incredibles 2, Finding Dory, Frozen 2, Toy Story 3 & Toy Story 4...it’s sad that Kung Fu Panda of all animated franchises, did not have the nearly same money-making numbers as those other afore-mentioned films. Hopefully, the KFP-franchise will be treated in the future as a classic animated franchise that brought us memorable characters and top-quality storytelling.
Now with pandas out of the way, let’s talk about apes..which segues to:
War for the Planet of the Apes - This was a rough one. Another franchise that I love. This time though, it’s underperformed for a more...different reason.
First film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, was a huge surprise back in 2011. Not many people had high hopes for that film before release. It was previously seen as another attempt of rebooting/remaking an old classical franchise like “Planet of the Apes” for example.
First time someone attempted that was Tim Burton, back in 2001 with his own remake of an Planet of the Apes-film. And that film had some..mixed results. It’s true that it was financially successful with $180M DOM & $362M WW, which at the time made it the biggest grosser in the entire Apes-movie legacy, the reception though..were pretty mixed. At worst, it was seen as a betrayal to the old classic Apes-movies and regarded it as THE worst of all Apes-movies in general...or at best, it was a summer-popcorn flick that was enjoyable enough, and some thought while it wasn’t close as good as the previous films it was between average and decent. Hence there were concerns for how Rise would have turned out.
However, the unthinkable happened: Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a very good and well-thought out film with heart & emotion. Thanks to the amazing acting & motion-capture performance of Andy Serkis as the main ape called “Caesar”. And with the reward of being very good, it let to great box office results. It made $176M DOM which although lower than the Tim Burton-version, it was a very good DOM-gross nonetheless. Worldwide though, it did better with $481M, beating out the 2001-Apes version. So due to “Rise” being a surprise hit for 20th Century Fox, it was clear that Fox had a potentially great franchise in their hands.
Which gets us to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Released in 2014, this was a test if audiences would be there on mass, to see how Caesar’s comeback would be in his second time on screen. And luckily, it definitely payed off. Critics & audiences really loved it as much...if not more than the previous film with 90% on RT, praising the visual effects & performances of the apes and even performances from human actors like Jason Clarke & Gary Oldman for example. Box office-wise proved that this franchise would really go ape (no pun intended). As “Dawn” made over $208M DOM & $710M WW, making it even a bigger hit than “Rise”. So with the grosses getting bigger with each film, you’d think that a third one would pull off a “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” with a threepeat and go even much higher with the box office?
Sadly though...it didn’t. This was another sequel, whose box office numbers didn’t justify the stellar reception it had. Now, to the positives..it was indeed beloved by critics and audiences alike with 94% on RT, for the visual effects & acting performances of the apes. Again, the standout being Andy Serkis as Caesar. And also considering ”War” as a great conclusion to Caesar’s story. So...like KFP3, I was all high on War for the Planet of the Apes’s box office potential. I even said that if everything went right, it would have been going as high as over $1B WW. That’s how much I was confident with the film. However...instead of rising from Dawn, it only sinked and took a nosedive, box office wise. While “War” beat out “Rise” with a WW-gross of $490M (though barely)...it unfortunately dropped like a boulder from “Dawn”s $710M WW. The DOM-gross also wasn’t great either. ”War” only made over $146M DOM, which makes it the lowest grosser in the reboot franchise. And that really saddens me...since i predicted it would be the biggest of the franchise with more than $260-280M+ DOM. Sighs...I guess not every great and beloved trilogy can be “Lord of the Rings” in terms of box office grosses. But we can still be happy that we still have a franchise like the Apes-reboot that has splendid storytelling and amazing CGI & visuals from the Apes themselves.
Phew...this was a long list.