Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland hit theaters this past weekend with mixed reviews and an even more lukewarm reception at the box office. With such a disappointing Memorial Day opening, is Disney interested in pursuing a sequel, and does the creative team even want one?
How bad was Tomorrowland’s opening weekend?
Tomorrowland opened with a $9.7 million return on its first day, roughly on par with Pitch Perfect 2, which was going into its second week. Things didn’t pick up much over the following three day weekend, totaling somewhere around $41.7 million.
Those aren’t inherently bad numbers, but it’s definitely a big disappointment for Disney, after a rumored $280 million spent after marketing is factored in. It also happens to be the studio’s lowest opening on a big-budget live-action film since Prince of Persia five years ago.
Outside of the US, things weren’t a whole lot better. The film opened in 65 territories, but despite a marketable star in George Clooney, it only managed to bring in another $27.5 million. That left it finishing in second behind Avengers: Age of Ultron, which has been out for over a month overseas.
Does this kill any hope for a sequel?
For the most part, yes, at least for now. Tomorrowland was banking almost entirely on its box office run. Unlike (and surprisingly so) most modern Disney tentpoles, there wasn’t a whole lot of supplementary revenue streams like toys, games, or other merch.
So without strong ticket sales, Tomorrowland will be doing nothing to make money for Disney, nor will it be establishing much of a brand that the studio can leverage in the future.
That being said, it’s not impossible. Tron: Legacy‘s numbers were not much better when it first hit theaters, but it managed to turn a small profit over its entire theatrical run, and rumor has it that Disney is gearing up to shoot a sequel this year.
Don’t get too optimistic though, Tron: Legacy was not only slightly cheaper to make, but it’s also an important brand to Disney, and had a lot more merchandise and theme park tie-ins to add to its value. Even with all of that, it still took over five years before a sequel really got moving (and it’s still not even a guarantee).
In all likelihood, we won’t be seeing another Tomorrowland soon, if ever.
That covers Disney’s likely stance though, but that doesn’t take into account a very important question: are Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof even interested in a sequel?
So, have Brad Bird or Damon Lindelof said anything about sequel plans?
If the box office receipts didn’t put a nail in the sequel coffin, then director Brad Bird’s track record probably does. While Bird has directed sequels before, he’s never directed a sequel to one of his own films (that will change with Incredibles 2 somewhere down the line though).
In fact, he seems pretty averse to the possibility given how he ditched the Mission: Impossible franchise after giving it its best entry yet.
Additionally, neither Bird or Lindelof have said anything about a sequel so far, and it seems likely that they meant this as a one-off project. If a sequel does come a few years from now, don’t expect their involvement as a given.
If not a movie, could Tomorrowland be continued in another medium?
Tomorrowland is a weird brand for Disney, and they’ve definitely been tip-toeing around it in terms of merch (I was at Disneyland this past weekend, and literally the only thing on sale was a very boring t-shirt). That factor seems to have permeated the studio’s entire approach to the movie’s world.
Unlike their other live-action franchises like Marvel, Pirates, and Star Wars, Disney has not made a huge attempt to build out the Tomorrowland universe. There’s no current plans for more books, comics, video games (aside from a tiny Infinity tie-in), short films, or anything of that nature.
However, with nearly $300 million invested, Disney may want to see a return on that money by continuing to leverage the material in small ways.
I could definitely see a short-run Marvel comics series, maybe as part of their Disney Kingdoms line. A mobile game may be another route, as Disney has had a ton of success licensing its properties (Marvel especially) for phone and tablet games.
A Tomorrowland TV series also seems like a possibility, although a big-budget Agents of SHIELD-esque show seems unlikely. Some kind of more modestly-budgeted animated spin-off would make much more sense. Again, this is not a brand that Disney is looking to dump more money into.
All of this is pure speculation though, and as it stands, Disney took a big hit on opening weekend, and may or may not be interested in even exploring future options. We’ll have to wait and see how the second and subsequent weekends play out; there could still be hope for word-of-mouth buzz, although that seems unlikely given the reviews.
In the meantime, if you’re looking to explore the world a bit more, you can always enjoy the official prequel novel, Before Tomorrowland.