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'Blade Runner' comes out of retirement to lackluster results

[LOS ANGELES] "Blade Runner 2049," a revival of the 1982 sci-fi cult classic starring Harrison Ford, opened as the top film in North American theaters this weekend with underwhelming results.

The film, distributed by Warner Bros and backed by Sony Pictures and Alcon Entertainment, opened with sales of US$31.5 million, researcher ComScore Inc. estimated Sunday in an email. That was less than BoxOffice.com's US$54 million estimate.

While "Blade Runner 2049" opened to favorable reviews and an extensive marketing effort, the picture joins the many remakes and sequels that have fallen short with a skeptical movie-going public in the US. Overseas sales will now ultimately dictate whether the US$150 million production profitable.

"It was definitely a disappointing result given all the buildup and the huge projections for the film," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore. "It's an intellectually charged sci-fi movie, and that limited its appeal." Theater stocks tumbled in New York. AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc, the largest exhibitor, slumped as much as 8.6 per cent to US$13.90, while Regal Entertainment Group, the No 2 US chain, fell as much as 5.2 per cent to US$15.90. Cinemark Holdings Inc was down 3.2 per cent to US$36.48.

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About seven of every 10 people who went to the movie in the US were male, Warner Bros said in a statement Sunday. The audience also skewed older, with 86 per cent over the age of 25.

The movie's running time - two hours and 43 minutes - also hurt, Mr Dergarabedian said.

"Blade Runner 2049" missed Warner Bros.'s more conservative expectations, which were for a US$45 million opening weekend. Analysts at BoxOffice.com estimated the movie may take in US$135 million through its domestic run.

The big budget and marketing campaign mean "Blade Runner 2049" will need to bring in more than US$400 million worldwide to break even and US$675 million to be considered a real success, according to Jeff Bock, senior analyst at box-office researcher Exhibitor Relations.

Overseas, "Blade Runner 2049" made US$50.2 million in its first weekend, with the UK leading the way at US$8 million, Sony said. Russia took in US$4.9 million, while Australia and France generated US$3.6 million each. The movie doesn't debut in China until Nov 10.

Those close to the film expect that in coming weeks the movie will draw in fans overseas. Critics think it has a chance of winning Oscars, which would keep the flick in theaters for a longer period. "We are optimistic that 'Blade Runner 2049' will find a broader audience over the next weeks and months," said Jeff Goldstein, head of domestic distribution for Warner Bros.

Ford, Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright and Jared Leto starred in the sequel to the 1982 film. Gosling is featured as a young blade runner, a policeman who kills androids known as replicants. He finds a long-buried secret that leads him to seek out former blade runner Rick Deckard, played by Ford.

RottenTomatoes.com, which aggregates critics' comments into a single rating, gave the film an 88 per cent positive score.

The film unit of Sony Corp was the biggest contributor to the production budget, at US$90 million, and stood to gain or lose the most from its box-office reception. The studio's domestic ticket sales were up 1.9 per cent this year through Oct. 1. A film's backers split box-office proceeds with theaters.

"The Mountain Between Us," a survival tale from Fox featuring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, made its debut in second place with sales of US$10.1 million, while Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.'s "My Little Pony: The Movie" produced $8.8 million and came in fourth.

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