Serenity II, a Sci-Fi Original?
Posted on Friday 2 December 2005
Well this is interesting. I was talking with a publicist from a major studio a few days back, and he tells me he’s got a friend who’s connected with the Serenity production. He makes this claim: that, in light of Serenity’s disappointing box office performance, there are still plans to go ahead with another film, but it will be done at a much lower budget, and instead of getting a theatrical release, it will be aired on the Sci-Fi channel as a Sci-Fi original.
Now first, let me immediately disclaim like holy hell, and then we’ll talk about this a bit more.
First disclaimer: The source for this is a studio publicist, but not from Universal, which would be the studio making the decisions about any future movies based on the property, and he was not speaking in any official capacity whatsoever, but just talking shop outside the office about something he’d heard.
Second disclaimer: Although I on occasion write for the Sci-Fi Channel, I am not in any way whatsoever speaking for them. I have not heard anything official, or even unofficial from the Channel. I asked people I know at Sci-Fi about this and none of them had ever heard of it. That’s not surprising, as they’re in parts of the company that wouldn’t hear about this until it was either public or very close to it.
So this is gossip - nothing more. It is industry gossip rather than fanboy gossip in case that means anything, but it’s still just gossip. It could be right on target, or it could turn out to be completely and utterly wrong. It could be a real plan at the moment, but one that’s dumped before it ever comes to fruition. There’s just no way of knowing. Time will tell.
As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one in that conversation and IGN has checked up a bit. Apparently Joss Whedon’s camp denies it, and Universal has no comment.
But with that in mind, let’s consider the scenario for a moment. Serenity wasn’t as successful as it should have been at the box office, but it’s not as bad as it might be. Domestic gross topped out at a little better than $25 million. It’s still bringing in money overseas - a bit less than $12 million to date bringing its worldwide box office to about $37 million. It just opened in Italy, for example, so that total will continue to rise - though don’t think it’s going to suddenly make $100 million in Asia or anything.
Then there’s the DVD money, which will be impressive. The pre-order is currently #30 on Amazon. Obviously the studio doesn’t make all that revenue, but they’re not going to do too badly out of all this.
They know there’s a devoted fan base for this material. Now they know what kind of audience it can generate. That might not be enough to justify a second theatrical feature on the scale of Serenity. But it would make a very appealing audience for a cable movie.
Remember it all began as a TV show. Firefly worked on that level without necessarily having to be scaled up to the range of a $45 million Serenity - although obviously the material worked very well at that level too. I personally think that a very credible Firefly movie could be made on an MOW budget. The cast (trimmed down a bit now) are still not major names and, on TV, there won’t be as much pressure to make the movie big big big! to compensate for that lack of starpower.
And, of course, producing another movie would give Universal something else to release on DVD, which is still where the money is expected to be. They could, in fact, just release it directly to DVD, but premiering it on cable first both helps boost the revenue, and helps make sure everyone’s waiting for the disc when it comes out.
But why the Sci-Fi Channel? Because it’s all part of Universal. That’s part of that cross-sectional cooperation big companies like to take advantage of. That’s why the Channel had NBC News throwing its not inconsiderable weight behind a Bermuda Triangle documentary to run alongside the upcoming Triangle mini-series. Running a second Serenity movie on Sci-Fi would be the obvious thing to do with it if they don’t want to spend the money to take it to theaters.
And it would be great for the Channel. Look at the numbers for Battlestar Galactica. A two-hour movie, or four-hour miniseries along the lines of Farscape’s Peacekeeper Wars would pull serious audience by cable standards. It would be a win all around.
So overall, this remains highly, highly speculative gossip. In fact, go re-read the disclaimers up above again, and then come back here. It’s even more speculative if the Whedon camp is not declining comment but outright denying it. But it’s not an absurd scenario on its face and, should it actually pan out, I think it would be a great move for fans.