On paper, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES was always a risk, especially at a reported $150M production budget. The game it’s based on has a rabid but small fan base. To recoup, the film would have to attract a wider audience. Credit Paramount and filmmakers John Frances Daley and Jonathan Goldstein for leaning into the film’s wit, humor, and cheery disposition to bring more people into the fold.
Did it work? Well, maybe. Critics liked it. Based on exit polls, so do movie fans. But is $39M enough to convince Paramount to greenlight a sequel?
On the plus side, the film overperformed expectations. Most tracking services and box office prognosticators had it opening in the $30M to $35M. The Quorum data suggested an opening weekend ceiling of $33M. The problem is that DRAGONS needed to exceed expectations by even more to guarantee a follow-up. But by how much? What will it have to gross to get a sequel? Let’s break it down.
In recent years, the dividing line between a sequel and a terminus has been a film’s ability to gross nearly 2.50 times its budget. Not just domestically but worldwide. Here are 11 non-super-hero films from recent years with budgets between $100M and $200M. Four were given sequels; seven did not.
MALIFICENT, for example, grossed $760M worldwide on a budget of $180M. That’s a multiple of 4.22. We’re getting THE MEG 2: THE TRENCH in August because the first one grossed $530M. There’s another MAD MAX movie in the works. Same for DUNE. All grossed over 2.4 times their budget.
The seven below don’t have movie sequels in the works. Or, at least, not yet. Most recently, a sequel to BLACK ADAM is unlikely, given that it only grossed $393M on a $200M budget.
So if a 2.40 multiple is necessary, then DUNGEONS & DRAGONS needs to gross $360M. On the domestic side, a $39M can translate into anything from $110M on up based on word-of-mouth. It’s too soon to know where it will land, but strong exit polls bode well for box office legs. Whatever DRAGONS doesn’t make domestically, it must be made up overseas. Bottom line: all eyes are on $360M.
Having said that, there are no hard-or-fast rules when it comes to grosses versus budget. Why did INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURRECTION fail to get a sequel despite having multiples near FURY ROAD and DUNE? That, in large part, has to do with the fact that the latter two were each nominated for Best Picture. RESURRECTION did not get the same critical response.
That speaks to the intangibles. A studio is likelier to greenlight a sequel for a film that establishes itself in the cultural zeitgeist, even if it’s not a theatrical slam dunk. And that’s where DUNGEONS & DRAGONS might excel. Cultural currency comes from people talking about a film; people are much more likely to talk about a movie if it’s good. And that works in the film’s favor. There is undeniable goodwill towards DUNGEONS & DRAGONS.
A sequel may not happen overnight. But it may happen. In the meantime, let’s keep an eye on that target of $360M gross.