Well, it's not quite "John Carter," but today MGM revealed in a call with investors (via Deadline) that though "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" took in $231 million worldwide (not bad for a hard-R crime drama that runs 2 1/2 hours long) it still didn't meet the numbers honchos thought they would get out of a fanbase that snapped up 30 million copies of the book worldwide. “It is below our expectations and we booked a modest loss,” exec Gary Barber said, adding that they ”were hoping we’d do 10% more than we did.” But what does this mean about the proposed sequels?
Back in January, it was announced that Sony (who has a co-financing and distribution deal with MGM) would be moving ahead with "The Girl Who Played With Fire" and "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest." However, with the numbers now in and finalized, Barber cautions that sequels will only happen “assuming we can achieve better economics.” So what does this mean?
Well, we presume that studio executives are now looking long and hard at whether or not they want to keep director David Fincher on board. Now, he does have an option on 'Fire' -- said to be his favorite book of the series -- and his pay-or-play deal stipulates that he gets $5 million whether they move ahead with him or not. It's a pretty penny to pay, but studio heads might be ready to cut the cord. By most accounts, the production of 'Dragon Tattoo' featured a lot of head-butting between the director and the studio, starting with the casting of Rooney Mara, a decision that Fincher had to fight for. There were also concerns about the running time, which at one point was closer to three hours, something that Sony was not happy about (a movie that long usually means a sharp drop in how many times during the day it can screen at the multiplex). If a movie is a big success, that kind of friction is easily forgiven, but when a picture underperforms, it isn't so easily forgotten.
We're guessing a couple things will happen here: Firstly, MGM will probably watch the numbers of the recently released BluRay/DVD to see how it does (oh yeah, that DVD disc is pretty cool -- see below). Next, you can expect the budget on 'Fire' to be lower than the reported $90 million (which doesn't include the extensive P&A campaign, and we wonder if that number includes the late-stage reshoots on the movie) and as for Fincher? We think MGM may try to renegotiate their deal, and perhaps keep him on as an executive producer (keep the fanboys happy), give him a taste of the box office on the sequels and avoid paying out $5 million for him to walk.
But again, who knows. With Fincher apparently battling Netflix over "House Of Cards," perhaps the 'Dragon Tattoo' franchise is at least a fight he's been through already and is familiar with, and he'll be willing to bend a bit to return. But it'll be interesting to see how it plays out.