If Lionsgate dreamed of replacing “Hunger Games” with “Gods of Egypt,” the company better keep searching for another way to fill the gap left by Katniss Everdeen.
The $140 million production is staring down the barrel of a $15 million domestic opening, a paltry start for a film with such a big price tag. At one point, Lionsgate had teased the idea of spinning “Gods of Egypt” into a new franchise, but analysts say that for a film of this size to justify sequels, it needs to open to $30 million or higher.
“This is on target to be one of the biggest box office belly flops of 2016,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “They didn’t greenlight this film with the thought of having one film. They greenlit it hoping to get three films out of this.”
Directed by Alex Proyas (“I, Robot”), “Gods of Egypt” centers on a mortal hero who allies himself with a god in order to save the world. Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Geoffrey Rush head up the cast. The production was embroiled in controversy for tapping white actors to play Egyptian characters, leading Proyas to apologize for not employing a more diverse group of performers.
The furor died down, but it may not matter. Sources close to Lionsgate stress that the company has protected itself from potential losses through a combination of foreign pre-sales and a 46% production incentive from the Australian government for shooting in the country. In a 2014 presentation with analysts, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said the studio’s exposure on the budget was under $10 million.
Lionsgate’s stock has slid sharply in recent months, as investors have worried about a post-“Hunger Games” future and media companies across the sector have been battered by fears about weaknesses in the cable industry. But the likely disappointment of “Gods of Egypt” doesn’t appear to be putting a strain on Lionsgate’s shares. In fact, the company’s stock was up 8.73% on Wednesday at $21.54.
In a note to investors, Bernstein Research analysts wrote that while the film may be “a complete disaster,” its long-term impact is minimal and even if it flops, “It arguably wouldn’t change future years’ earnings at all.”
“Gods of Egypt” may do better overseas, where audiences could be dazzled by its clashes between deities. It opens in 68 foreign markets this weekend, including Russia, South Korea and Brazil. It has also scored a Chinese release next month, which could bolster its bottom line. That doesn’t do much for Lionsgate, of course, since those rights were pre-sold at a guaranteed minimum level of box office performance.
Part of the issue that “Gods of Egypt” and others face is that “Deadpool” is a box office phenomenon with few equals. Entering its third weekend, the foul-mouthed and violent comic book adventure shows few signs of flagging. It should pull in $30 million to easily top the weekend box office, and is on pace to do at least $300 million Stateside.
“Gods of Egypt” isn’t the only new release trying to get out from under the “Deadpool” juggernaut. Open Road will field “Triple 9,” a $20 million heist thriller from John Hillcoat (“The Road”) that stars Casey Affleck and Chiwetel Ejiofor, in 2,205 locations. Fox will offer up “Eddie the Eagle,” a $23 million sports dramedy about an unlikely Olympian with Hugh Jackman and Taron Egerton, in 2,038 locations. Both films should earn roughly $10 million.