Blade Runner 2049 has weak opening despite strong reviews

Blade Runner 2049 opened surprisingly weakly at the North American box office, debuting with an estimated $31.5 million US.

Sequel claimed top spot, drawing in $31.5 million US but studio was counting on debut closer to $50 million

Dennis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049, starring Ryan Gosling, had a disappointing opening at the box office compared to studio projections. (Warner Brothers)

Blade Runner 2049 opened surprisingly weakly at the North American box office, debuting with an estimated $31.5 million US.

That's a disappointing start for a highly touted, well-reviewed sequel that cost at least $155 million to make. Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures, which collaborated on the Alcon Entertainment production, had targeted closer to a $50 million opening.

The problem Blade Runner 2049 ran into is clear from opening weekend data. The audience was overwhelmingly male and over the age of 25. Blade Runner 2049, starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, failed to pull in moviegoers beyond fans of the 1982 original.

The opening was a blow most of all to Alcon Entertainment, the production company that split the film's cost with Sony Pictures. Warner Bros., which released the original and maintained rights for any follow-ups, distributed domestically.

Sony released the film internationally, where it performed better with $50.2 million in overseas ticket sales over the weekend.

The 20-year-old Alcon, backed by FedEx founder Fred Smith, has been behind some notable successes with Warner Bros. (The Blind SidePrisoners.) But its blockbuster ambitions —which include flops like Point Break and Transcendence — have gone rockier. Co-founder Andrew Kosove previously called the ambitious Blade Runner 2049 "a chips-in-the-centre-of-the-table exercise."

And Alcon — a 45 employee company — seemingly did everything right, turning in a glowingly reviewed film, directed by the sought-after Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) and produced by Ridley Scott (who directed the original.)

Audiences liked the movie, too, giving it an A- CinemaScore. Representatives for Alcon Entertainment didn't respond to messages Sunday.

"I'm disappointed we didn't have a larger result this weekend on behalf of the owners of the film, Alcon" said Jeff Goldstein, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros. "We had bigger expectations for the weekend. The tracking and the advance sales indicated that there would be a stronger number."

The Kate Winslet-Idris Elba adventure romance The Mountain Between Us debuted in second with $10.1 million. The horror hit It followed in third with $9.7 million in its fifth week.