Warner Bros.’ was hoping for a hit with their latest adaptation of a Stephen King novel, but Doctor Sleep failed to perform this weekend, earning well under projections. It didn’t even take the top spot at the box office, losing that to the lesser known film Midway. It’s now being said that the film could lose upwards of $30 million dollars, which is a shame considering the film is actually pretty good. So what ended up causing the film to bomb? Well there are several reasons, but one of the biggest is that the film really had trouble connecting with its audience.
Unlike other Stephen King films that succeeded this year, Doctor Sleep didn’t really have that much of a campaign announcing it’s arrival. It: Chapter 2 was everywhere, from posters to TV Ads and billboards. Same thing for Pet Semetary. Doctor Sleep on the other hand was late to the game, and didn’t even have any events at the San Diego Comic Con this year, where a large portion of the horror-movie fan base would be attending. Another thing going against Doctor Sleep is the fact that the film is two and a half hours long, which turns off some movie goers. The biggest issue however is the fact that the film is a sequel to a film that is almost 40 years old.
Doctor Sleep the novel worked, simply because Stephen King fans know his novels. The Shining is one of his most popular novels, and when it was announced he was making a sequel to it, fans couldn’t wait. The 1980 film The Shining on the other hand was a different beast. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, the film was a huge success, even though King himself said he didn’t like the changes made to his work, and thus didn’t like the movie. Doctor Sleep the film, is a sequel to The Shining the film, thus very different than the novel. Typically King’s fans listen to what he has to say, which may have turned them off of the film sequel, because they had issues with the changes Kubrick made as well. Another thing that may have turned fans away is the fact the the sequel to an almost 40 year old film means some younger movie-goers may never have seen the original. It makes it hard to attract young crowds with nostalgia, if they have nothing to be nostalgic about. Case in point, The Terminator franchise has been floundering for a long time, simply because the people who are going to films these days don’t care about old Arnie and Linda Hamilton still fighting robots from the future.
In the end, it’s hard to count on a film doing well if it can’t connect to the people who are paying to go to the movies. The fact that Doctor Sleep is R rated as well, makes it hard to attract big box office numbers. Someone clearly wasn’t thinking when they green lit this film, and allowed it to still be released without making at least a few changes. They might have been better off making a new version of The Shining, then releasing Doctor Sleep a couple of years later.