This past weekend, the much-anticipated sequel to a 2012 sleeper hit made its debut — and cash registers rang again.
No, it wasn’t an action movie or a science fiction thriller. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel earned $8.6 million in limited release on its opening U.S. weekend, according to an estimate by Box Office Mojo, putting it in second place among new movies behind Chappie, the robot movie starring Hugh Jackman.
It ranked in third place overall, with Focus, in its second week, coming in between it and Chappie.
It’s an especially notable debut for an Indian-themed movie, said BollySpice. Hollywood studio films about India, such as Life of Pi, The Hundred Foot Journey and Million Dollar Arm, failed to rank that high, even though they played in more theaters.
The sequel to the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has gotten mixed reviews, but that may not matter to the audience for the films. Both versions starred English actors Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, and millennial heart throb Dev Patel. The newest version also adds Richard Gere.
In case you didn’t see the original, it centers on Sonny, played by Patel, and his efforts to turn a crumbling hotel in Jaipur, India, into a retirement home. He attracts a collection of familiar faces from British films and television, who experience India in different ways.
The sequel focuses on Sonny, his upcoming marriage, and various side plots involving the hotel guests, including an entrepreneurial venture by Dench, as well as whether Sonny can successfully expand his retirement concept.
The Best Exotic franchise is the subject of a lot of teasing from younger film goers, including a friend of mine who called it, “The Avengers for old people.” In fact, the audience at the showing I attended in Phoenix this weekend was decidedly on the senior side.
But seniors and baby boomers can turn modest films into hits. The original Best Exotic earned $46 million in the U.S., and $90 million overseas, for a total box office of $136.8 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
That film had a budget of $10 million. Its sequel is a little flashier, with an elaborate production number, but even if the movie cost a few million more, it probably has already earned back its costs.
Even before opening in the U.S., Box Office Mojo estimates the sequel has earned $21 million worldwide, and it will open in many more countries and in U.S. theaters this spring.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is spawning talk that there could be an entire franchise worth of films — and also some questions about whether older people deserve their own serials.
Director John Madden talked to the BBC about the concept. In fact, plenty of story lines are left unresolved in the sequel (no spoilers, but they involve all the big name cast members). So, there is space for at least a Third Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, if only to answer the questions that the audience has.
Meanwhile, expect the sequel to easily crack $100 million worldwide, making it one of the first hits of 2015, and it’s a story idea that can work anywhere the movie is showing.