A Constantine Legacy Sequel Has Mixed Prospects At The Box Office

The movie world got a bit of an unexpected bit of news recently when it was revealed that "Constantine" is getting a sequel. Yes, the 2005 DC Comics adaptation starring Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz, and yes, Reeves is coming back to play the role of John Constantine once again. They've even got director Francis Lawrence returning, making it a true, blue legacy sequel.

If one were to simply look at Twitter or film friendly corners of Facebook, this news is joyous and worth celebrating. But can a sequel to a movie that wasn't a runaway hit in its day become a success something like 20 years (depending on when it actually hits theaters) after the fact? That is the big question and it's something Warner Bros. is curious enough about to be willing to bankroll the endeavor. Which way will the dice roll? That is very much up in the air but, for various reasons, "Constantine 2" as a legacy sequel very much has mixed prospects at the box office and it's pretty tough to predict, at this juncture, whether or not this will pan out from a business perspective.

A mixed bag of success in its day

Looking at the raw numbers, "Constantine" earned $230.8 million at the global box office in its day and, for whatever it may be worth, that was good enough to make it the 15th highest-grossing movie of that year. The problem? The movie came with a pretty high production budget of $100 million. That means, when accounting for marketing costs, there is no way that it turned a profit during its theatrical run.

Now, over time, it's possible the movie made it into the green. Let's remember that 17 years ago, the home video market was far more robust, and this one actually might have done well on DVD/Blu-ray. Beyond that, there are cable rights to consider (and this movie played an awful lot on cable), plus whatever it has generated on streaming. But those numbers may well have been enough to encourage the studio to press forward with a sequel. Though it might actually be made for a slightly lower budget, as Lawrence indicated in an interview with us a couple of years back.

"I think we all wanted to do [a sequel]. It was successful enough. We wanted to make a responsible, more R-rated movie. By responsible, I mean we'd make a movie that wouldn't cost quite as much as the original, which we thought was going to be PG-13."

Now, 20 years later, Keanu Reeves starring in an R-rated "Constantine" movie with an upper-mid budget? That, on paper, sounds pretty appealing. If it just so happens to be a sequel that works for those who saw the original as well as something that new audiences could easily enjoy? We might have something. Another fun statistic to just button this whole thing up: "Constantine" was the highest-grossing DC movie to not feature Batman or Superman in it until "Wonder Woman" was released in 2017.

The star power factor

Another thing to consider is the star(s) at the center of all of this. For one, the character of Constantine has only become more popular since that original movie was released. We had Matt Ryan's portrayal on the short-lived TV show on NBC, with that character later making the jump to "Legends of Tomorrow." Ryan also played the part in several animated films, including "Justice League Dark." Not to mention the recent gender-swapped version of the character that appeared in "The Sandman" on Netflix. To what degree those other adaptations help this movie's box office prospects are tough to measure, but audience familiarity is undoubtedly never going to hurt anything.

The other star power element at play here is that of Reeves. In no small part thanks to the popularity of the "John Wick" franchise, Reeves has become a big commodity once again and has a lot of good will built up with the movie going public. That, undoubtedly, will help "Constantine 2" (whatever it ends up actually being titled) have a better shot at actually putting butts in seats. Now, is that enough star power to justify a $100 million budget? The relative failure of "The Matrix Resurrections" suggests maybe not. But again, it's all relative. If Lawrence and co. really can make a $75 million or less R-rated follow-up? Maybe this can work! But that's a big if.

A possible over-estimation of interest

Another big thing is that superhero cinema has only grown in popularity, by leaps and bounds, since 2005. In particular, the DC brand, as somewhat confused and in flux as it may be right now, is also much more present in the eyes of general moviegoers. Successes like "Sucide Squad," "The Batman," and "Wonder Woman" have ensured that much. That, coupled with the increased popularity of John Constantine and Reeves, could help this make sense on paper.

But one thing that needs to be said is that online interest doesn't equate to real world interest. Sure, people online seem to be excited about this, but an expensive superhero movie needs average Joes who don't spend time online to actually get off the couch and head to a theater. Warner Bros. experienced this with "Malignant," a movie that horror fans online went nuts for but failed to do much at the box office. Online chatter can be a good indicator but it is by no means going to ensure anything.

Warner Bros. learned the pitfalls of listening to fans online with the release of Zack Snyder's "Justice League" as well. That said, there is no real reason to think there will be any toxicity in this case. It's more about pointing out that Twitter and Facebook aren't at all representative of the real world when it comes to a movie's financial prospects. So, where does that leave us? If the budget can stay reasonable, and if everything lines up just right, this might be a smart move. But a whole lot has to go right for this to become a success and, as it stands, getting any movie made is a minor miracle. Add in all of the uncertainty at Warner Bros. Discovery right now under CEO David Zaslav and it becomes a real toss up.

The "Constantine" sequel does not yet have a release date.