Recently, trusted media news outlet The Hollywood Reporter "reportedly" stated that the future of the Alien franchise was being reassessed following the release of Alien: Covenant. While the article in question is actually looking at the increasing likelihood of expensive movies failing to meet their necessarily high box office quota's to be considered profitable, many other media news outlets have subsequently quoted THR's small comment relating to Ridley Scott's latest movie...
"Sources say Fox will have to reassess two intended sequels Scott has pitched while he is off helming Getty kidnapping movie All the Money in the World and then drug lord drama The Cartel."
This statement does not, as some have suggested mean that the Alien franchise is in jeopardy. Put simply someone THR cannot name (a source) has told them that in their opinion studio 20th Century Fox cannot continue producing movies like Alien Covenant, movies that, as per the subject of THR's article are not generating enough profit at the box office for the studio to generate enough profit to continue producing movies. To see what THR is trying to highlight look at the maths behind Alien: Covenants box office returns - Ridley Scott's sequel reportedly cost $97 million to produce, with many outlets suggesting that an equal amount was used for the movie's marketing budget. Currently, Covenant has earned $232.3 million worldwide at the box office; with almost $200 needed to cover the production and marketing budgets, the movie has only generated approximately $46.3 million profit (if the marketing budget estimates are to be believed). While physically a lot of money, what amounts to half of the production budget in profits is not a very good return and is just plain bad business.
Consider the original movie, 1979's Alien had a production budget of between $9-11 million and earned (according to Box Office Mojo) $104.9 at the box office. As with its recent prequel-sequel, 20th Century Fox likely spent equal to the production budget ($9-11 million) on the marketing budget giving the movie a return of at least $82.9 million. This is not only nearly double the profit Covenant earned it is also nearly eight times the cost of the production budget, a very healthy profit margin. Some may point out that since its release Alien has also earned an additional $100 million in home release and broadcast/network sales, but box office returns mean cinema ticket sales taken from the movies theatrical run, the term "box office" does include media sales post cinematic release. Before the digital age studios did not generate much profit after a movies theatrical run and as such heavily relied on box office returns. Being resilient and hesitant to change studios still look to the box office for the wealth of their income, but with today's entertainment hungry audience able to purchase movies digitally, directly from the studios if available, times are changing as evidenced by the growing number of VOD productions (such as those produced by Netflix) and MGM's forthcoming Stargate Command venture.
Ultimately, Alien fans can relax. Percentages and returns aside, Alien: Covenants $232.2 million earned at the box office is the second highest earnings of the franchise, behind Prometheus' $403.4 million of course. None of the previous four movies managed to earn as much as Covenant at the box office, so rest assured more Alien movies are an inevitability. For Ridley Scott however, he will likely be told by 20th Century Fox to produce his next installment in his planned series of prequels for a much smaller budget, probably $25-50 million, to assure healthier profits. The divisive opinions of fans and critics that have resulted in a less than ideal aggregate review score while being a factor in the movies failure to surpass $250-300 million at the box office, is both a factor Fox and Scott will have to consider moving forward, and the topic of a whole other article entirely.
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