Simon Kinberg can’t really think a Fantastic Four sequel will happen, can he?

Image provided by imdb/ FOX

In comments released this week, the writer/producer, who is a key part of the Fox team focused on Marvel superhero movies, insisted he was focusing on making Fantastic Four 2 happen. Fans can only gape in open-mouthed horror.

To date, Fantastic Four has grossed about $55.4 million in North America. The worldwide total is about $160.8 million. Those are not good numbers for a summer blockbuster in the abstract, without even considering profits. Big action spectacles with a global box office under $200 million don’t tend to earn sequels.

But let’s consider the economics of Fantastic Four. It has a reported production budget around $120 million. Fans are well advised to take that number with a grain of salt. Effects-heavy action movies often run much higher. Given negative buzz, Fox had an incentive to see as a low a number as possible circulating, to keep performance expectations modest.

For the sake of argument, we’ll go with the $120 million number. Meaning that Fantastic Four at least recouped its production cost on a global basis. That doesn’t mean it made a profit. Distribution and marketing costs push the “profitability” marker much further down the field. Big action movies, especially, can have promotion budgets that easily top the $100 million mark.

Those figures tend not to make their way into the public eye with any reliability. For a movie like Fantastic Four, if we take the most conservative and generous view of the situation, at minimum it would have needed worldwide grosses of at least $200 million to break even. Likely that number was higher. So that even with a best case scenario, Fantastic Four is producing a $40 million loss for Fox. That final loss number won’t be known for some time and likely will be quite a bit higher.

Image provided by imdb/ FOX

This isn’t a case where a movie has found an audience via video release after underperforming in theaters. Fantastic Four is still in theaters, petering out to an unimpressive conclusion. Video/streaming revenues remain to be seen. They would need to be substantial to justify going forward with a sequel. It could be another year or two until Fox has any useful data from video and streaming to ascertain if the total audience makes a sequel feasible. Again, it seems unlikely those revenues will add enough to help the movie reach a breakeven point.

Fox doesn’t have the time to wait and see. They’d already announced a release date for Fantastic Four 2, long before the first movie even opened. That’s the kind of insanity that occurs among movie studios these days, staking out territory for big releases years in advance, regardless of whether they’ve done any work on them.

Would Fox make a movie just to avoid embarrassment? A logical reaction would be “no.” And yet, Hollywood isn’t known for logic.

Fantastic Four was a critical and commercial disaster. Kinberg expressed disappointment that fans didn’t like it. Despite that Fox ignored loud and persistent negative fan reaction to things like casting, story direction and the choice of the unloved Ultimate Fantastic Four as source material.

Any FOX executives who allow Fantastic Four 2 to move forward should lose their jobs. It makes no business or artistic sense to create a follow-up to one of the biggest screen failures in recent memory. This is an embarrassment for Fox already. The shame of losing the film rights back to Marvel or vacating an announced release date can’t be worse than the black eye the first movie has already produced.

Hopefully Kinberg and Fox are just posturing for effect. At this point, Fantastic Four 2 is unthinkable.

Originally published at on September 16, 2015.

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting

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