One of the bigger pieces of news in the film blogsphere was the relatively high sales figures for the debut of Dredd 3D in its first week of its various home viewing platforms. A press release put out by Lionsgate states that Dredd sold 650,000 DVDs and Blu Rays in its first week as well as leading in digital purchases/downloads as well. This is of course good news for those involved in the picture, which earned just $36 million worldwide on an alleged $50 million budget, but it doesn't mean that the franchise is now magically alive-and-well. The news has had pretty much every movie blogger screaming that we may now get that theatrical sequel after all! Sorry folks, it ain't gonna happen.
As the press release states, Dredd is just one of many Lionsgate titles that have outpaced their theatrical box office upon arriving on Blu-Ray/DVD/On Demand/etc. (remember when you just had to say "home video"?). That makes sense as frankly many of Lionsgate's genre fare is just the sort of thing that general audiences often pass on only to make a point to check it out when it becomes available to buy or rent. Did we ever actually get another Lionsgate-distributed Punisher movie after Punisher: War Zone (which also made more on home video than in theaters) or a Transporter 4? For the record, Dredd, like a number of Lionsgate releases, was distributed and marketed by the studio but not financed by them. And as for the 'biggest selling new release title of 2013!' title, well we're just a few weeks into 2013. Lionsgate is well known for releasing major theatrical releases onto DVD/Blu Ray in January in order to take advantage of shoppers returning holiday gifts or spending holiday gift cards. They probably have the biggest-selling new release title of the year at the beginning of every year.
Speaking of The Transporter, Transporter 3 also sold 607,000 DVDs in its first week of release in March of 2009. It sold just over 1.2 million DVDs and Blu Rays during its first several months, which ended up equaling about $21 million in revenue. Do we really think an extra $25 million (or let's be generous and say $32 million accounting for VOD numbers on the scale of Bachlerotte) is going to convince Lionsgate to spend another $30-$50 million to produce, market, and distribute another Dredd film? And no, this is absolutely not a similar situation as New Line Cinema found itself in with the first Austin Powers film back in spring 1997. People like to claim that Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was some kind of box office flop that found an audience on home video which led to the two massive sequels. That statement is half-correct.
It *did* find a major following on home video, but it didn't exactly flop in theaters either. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery opened with $9.5 million in April 1997 and slowly played out over the end of spring/beginning of summer. It parlayed strong word of mouth and solid reviews into a final $54 million domestic gross, off a $16.5 million budget. That's a rather stunning (especially by today's standards) 5.6x multiplier. This was before the Internet was a major film marketing tool, so this was purely old-fashioned human-to-human word of mouth. And yes it did very well on home video (I can't find the exact numbers), benefiting from the aforementioned good buzz as well as being one of the first commercially-available DVDs on the market and a video that entered the market in the priced-to-buy price range with deleted scenes following the feature. Point being, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was a leggy hit that was extremely profitable for New Line Cinemas even before the film made bank on home video.
We may well get a direct-to-DVD/Blu Ray sequel to Dredd, and if Lionsgate had Universal's mid-2000s mentality (when the sell-through DVD market was much stronger) I wouldn't be surprised by such a move. Do fans really want to see a done-on-the-cheap DTV sequel likely not starring Karl Urban? But as it stands, the somewhat strong home-viewing numbers aren't particularly off-the-charts as far as Lionsgate releases go, coming in at a little more than the first week sales of The Forbidden Kingdom or Saw V and about half of the likes of The Expendables and about dead even with Madea Goes to Jail (670,000 sold in its first week). The difference is that those numbers were a solid bonus following a strong theatrical run. Dredd was an expensive movie that tanked at the box office. If it plays like an upper-level Lionsgate title and earns around $40 million (and that's a big *if*), then we may well see the film eventually break even for the company years down the line.
But that's not the kind of combined performance that's likely to inspire a sequel, especially not a theatrical sequel. And if I may be a bit harsh, the relatively new trend of fans of box office bombs admittedly pleading/demanding a sequel to their favorite flop reeks of a certain fanboy entitlement. You have bloggers wondering why we haven't seen a sequel to MacGruber, a film that made $10 million at the box office and another $1.5 million on DVD/Blu Ray. You have rabid fans swearing that someday Disney will see the light and greenlight another John Carter movie because it's just a misunderstood masterpiece that will one day be rediscovered. Sorry folks, not gonna happen. When I was sixteen, I didn't go around screaming that Mars Attacks! deserved or merited a sequel and even five years ago we didn't see this kind of thing for under-loved flops like Speed Racer.
Dredd got made and got a wide release. Those who saw it mostly enjoyed it and now you can own it for all time and show it to your friends. Come what may, the film didn't do remotely well at the box office and even a somewhat decent home video performance won't be enough to continue the franchise in its current form. For those who love the character and loved the movie, that darn-well should be enough. At least you got two films based on your favorite comic book character, with one of them being mostly faithful and (in the opinions of many if not myself) quite good. That is more than any number of popular comic book characters got. Sorry fans, we're probably not going to get a sequel to Dredd 3D. We're just going to have to learn to accept that.