“Independence Day: Resurgence” didn’t set off any early fireworks at the U.S. box office over the weekend. The sequel to the 1996 hit (the highest-grossing movie of its year) only opened with $41.6 million. To put things into perspective, the original “Independence Day” kicked off to $50.2 million, back when tickets were less than half of what they are priced at now. But executives at Fox might not be sweating too much, since “Resurgence” (which cost $165 million) did much better internationally with a tally of $102.1 million abroad. In China, it scored an impressive $37.3 million debut.
Still, it’s troubling for Hollywood that the sequel named after a patriotic summer holiday wouldn’t generate more interest among U.S. ticket buyers. Here are three reasons why “Resurgence” suffered at home.
1. The Sequel Needed Will Smith
The original “Independence Day” kicked off Smith’s career as a major box office draw, a status that he enjoyed for 15 years with mega hits such as the “Men in Black” series, “Hancock,” “I, Robot” and “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Smith bailed on “Resurgence,” after the studio reportedly turned down his demand for a $50 million paycheck to crank out two sequels in a row. His casting would have inevitably fueled nostalgia among millennials who recalled seeing him in the first movie 20 years ago, even if Smith’s box office track record has been wobbly lately. On the other hand, adding Liam Hemsworth to the cast may have helped the movie’s international take — he’s Australian and global audiences are familiar with him from “The Hunger Games.” But in the United States, Liam and his older brother Chris (who plays Thor in the Marvel superhero movies) have been less successful at carrying movies on their own.
2. Apocalypse Fatigue
When the original “Independence Day” opened, the idea of aliens blowing up the White House was a novel conceit. Now every blockbuster banks on apocalyptical themes. Just this year, the world was blown up in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “X-Men: Apocalypse,” not to mention that director Roland Emmerich has turned mass devastation into part of his brand with projects like “The Day After Tomorrow” and “2012.” To U.S. viewers still reeling from a national tragedy like the Orlando shooting, all this destruction might not still seem like escapist entertainment anymore.
3. Audiences Are Getting Smarter About Sequels
With the quality of TV on the rise, audiences are showing a pushback this year against sequels that seem to only be made for financial gain. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” “Alice Through the Looking Glass” and “The Divergent Series: Allegiant” all underperformed badly after getting hit with negative reviews. Fox’s decision not to screen “Resurgence” early to critics was a sign that the tentpole was going to be a dud. As a result, most multiplex-goers splurged on “Finding Dory” instead.