Lionsgate and Vin Diesel recently announced plans for the continuing adventures of The Last Witch Hunter — wishful thinking. Mortdecai, American Ultra and Child 44 were all groomed by Lionsgate to be their next big franchise in 2015. American Ultra sputtered out of release with $14.4 million, Mortdecai was a disaster, Child 44 was dumped with blink and you miss it advertising and in the case of the three released pictures, it was either blind optimism in suggesting multiple sequels, or just apart of the pre-release hype machine. The franchise hungry Lionsgate has even suggested franchising Sicario after the film opened to fantastic numbers in only 6 theaters. Lionsgate wisely mitigates their risk on expensive projects by pre-selling the film to overseas distributors and their financial model usually leaves them on the line for around $13 million of the production costs — plus the ever growing expense of domestic marketing, which usually runs north of $30 million. Back in March 2014, Lakeshore Entertainment boarded the film as co-financier with Lionsgate, but Lakeshore has quietly left the project, so it is uncertain at this time if Lionsgate is shouldering more than their usual $13 million in production expenses — in a few months their quarterly financial report should clear that up. So while the risk of the estimated $80 million budget of The Last Witch Hunter is pooled across numerous distributors, its franchise future diminishes in every territory the film produces soft numbers in — distributors won’t be plunking down big pre-sales dollars to a sequel they lost money on. And with only a few days until release, Lionsgate has been conservative with their marketing spend, with about 1,500 TV ads, as of Tuesday October 20 and the most buzz the film has seemed to generate has come from within its own studio, preemptively declaring a sequel to a film that has little hype. The Last Witch Hunter has little competition with its fellow openers this weekend, as Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension’s release has been botched by Paramount, so the two titles won’t completely cannibalize each other — but The Last Witch Hunter is going to try to carve out a piece of a very strong and crowded box office market this weekend. Steve Jobs is expanding and tracking well, Goosbumps will hold well and is even playing to a slightly older audience than expected, The Martian is still going strong, the older horror crowd (what few showed up) saw Crimson Peak last weekend and to be blunt, Diesel’s star wattage dims considerably outside any movie without ‘Fast’ or ‘Furious’ in the title. Early reviews so far are dreadful, this type of film is front loaded and The Last Witch Hunter will likely disappear from theaters quickly, leaving another would be franchise for Lionsgate in 2015.
The Last Witch Hunter comes in way below expectations opening weekend with a poor $10,825,000 making this another failed franchise. The Last Witch Hunter opened in 53 markets overseas and took in $13.4 million and has miles to go until its out of the red.