Box Office: Keanu Reeves’ ‘John Wick 2’ Has Already Topped ‘John Wick’ Worldwide


As of yesterday, is officially a much bigger hit than its immediate predecessor. The Summit/Lionsgate release snagged another $9 million to bring its domestic total up to $74.4m in 17 days of North American release. That means the film is within reach of doubling the $43m domestic total (not accounting for inflation) of the first . And the film has earned $51.1m overseas, already above the $45.7m foreign total of the 2014 original. That gives the Keanu Reeves action thriller a $125.5m global cume, or 46% more than the first film just over two weeks out.

So, yeah, I think it’s safe to say that is a break-out sequel.

For those who came in late, a break-out sequel is a case where a surprise hit and/or leggy smaller-scale winner snags good reviews, strong buzz and a solid post-theatrical following which translates into goodwill towards the sequel which pays off with a comparatively break-out performance the second time around. The obvious examples are , and . And yeah, the first was indeed a surprise critical hit among action junkies and a surprisingly solid little smash, earning $86m worldwide on an official $20m budget. The sequel, which also earned rave reviews, opened with $30m two weeks ago which was more than double the $14.4m debut of the first film.

The $40 million sequel, which also earned rave reviews, opened with $30m two weeks ago which was more than double the $14.4m debut of the first film. And even with the much bigger initial numbers, it’s proving to be about as leggy as that first installment, having already grossed around 2.5x its opening weekend with a solid 3x multiplier very much in sight. Whether or not it can leg it to $100m domestic and/or $200m worldwide is an open question, especially with coming down the pike. But it has already earned more than the first film domestically, more than the first film overseas and thus more than the first film worldwide. That’s actually a lot rarer than you’d think these days. In fact, it didn’t really happen at all last year.

To wit, if you’re counting live-action straight-ahead sequels (as opposed to animated films or superhero team-up spectaculars), only , and outgrossed its immediate predecessor worldwide. Yet while outgrossed domestically ($79m versus $71m) and worldwide ($118m versus $111m), it made pennies less overseas ($39m versus $40m) than that second film from back in 2014. The rest of that group made less domestically than the prior installment but got an overseas boost. And in this day-and-age, that’s actually pretty much the status quo.

Think or , both of which made less in North America than the first film yet made more worldwide thanks to greater overseas bounty. While and outgrossed their predecessors worldwide, they both made less in North America ($103m versus $137m and $62m versus $98m) than their respective predecessors. If you want to count animation, indeed crossed the $1 billion mark last summer, but it actually made less overseas ($541m in 2016 versus $559m in 2003) than .

This isn’t even discussing the various underperforming sequels (, , , , , etc.), from last year.

Now, to be fair, it may just be that 2016 was just a bad year for sequels that audiences actually wanted to see. Even if you don’t count over/under 10-years later installments (, , , ), we still had Universal/Comcast Corp.’s which outgrossed its entire predecessor’s domestic total in its opening weekend and Universal’s , which parlayed special circumstances into an obscene $350m domestic/$1.5 billion worldwide total.

But a first sequel outgrossing its immediate predecessor domestically and internationally is still pretty rare these days. It used to be pretty rare in general. In the first heyday of the sequel, namely the 1980’s and 1990’s, it was expected that the first sequel would cost more but make less than the first film. None of the first two sequels or sequels or sequels or sequels outgrossed the initial films. Tim Burton’s made more here and abroad than any of the three sequels that followed, while made less than half of what earned.

There were some exceptions here and there, like , and (and however you want to classify ) where the first sequel outgrossed the first film, but they were the exceptions rather than the rule. And then in the mid-to-late 1990’s, we started getting a flurry of sequels that basically pantsed their initial installments.

The first biggie was in the summer of 1999, which outgrossed its entire domestic total on opening weekend. Then we got the likes of ,, , , , Walt Disney’s , , , and .

Blame the DVD revolution, which made catching up on recent releases easier and more pleasurable, blame the influx of CGI-driven franchise fare that made the impossible possible, or just blame demographics. But we had a period where a sequel was almost expected to outperform the first movie.

Part of the ingredients for a would-be breakout sequel is that the film has to start comparatively small(er) and build the second time out. But what we started seeing at the end of the last decade is more would-be franchise starters that were so oversold and so explicitly built on brand awareness and fan interest that the first installment would basically play like a sequel. When you start at the top like or or , it’s hard to have too much growth the next time out now matter how beloved you turned out to be.

You still have the likes of or that outgross their predecessors domestically and worldwide, and we can argue whether or not Marvel’s Phase 2 sequels (, ) were helped both by their predecessors and by . But more common are the likes of that grow overseas enough to compensate for a smaller domestic total or sequels that just underperform compared to their predecessors.

The old rule for sequels is that you spend more money to make less money, but the budgets were usually small enough to survive the downturn. After a decade of "second time’s the charm," we’re seeing a return to that golden rule, so the budgets should be adjusted accordingly.

Now is a $40 million action sequel that will be thrilled to make $100m domestic and $200m worldwide, so we’re not talking a game-changing haul. But after a year filled with sequels that audiences didn’t want to see, even if many/most of them turned out to be moderately okay thanks to reasonable budgeting or overseas salvation, it’s beyond refreshing to see a sequel to a small-scale hit show genuine fan-driven growth the second time out.

Not only is something of a rarity in terms of outgrossing its predecessor here and abroad, it’ll be even more of a rarity if/when it earns $86 million domestic and $172m worldwide, effectively doubling ‘s take both domestically and worldwide. That’s actually really rare, putting the film in a club alongside (give or take any that I forgot) , , , and

So what does this all mean? We’ll, it means that we’ll have to keep an eye out for as the next breakout sequel and see if it can also top its domestic and overseas grosses compared to the 2014 smash. Look out for and (possibly) . It means that there is still a place for franchise growth on the rare occasion where you get a genuine small-scale sleeper hit that excites the fan base. And it also means that Lionsgate merely needs to not spend $80 million on , because there is no guarantee that this is going to play like .

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