Sex and the City 2 simply wasn't going to win. When it comes to having a big-opening weekend, it was doomed even before the dismal reviews started pouring in. Here's why.
First, some numbers: The first SATC grossed $57 million over its 3-day opening weekend in 2008; SATC2 pulled in $37.1 million over this weekend's 3-day opening, or $51.3 million if you include Thursday's sales —but the first film grossed $62.6 million over its 4-day opening in 2008. Granted, the film may match or exceed its predecessor's profits over the long-haul. But it lost its prized opening-weekend bragging rights, and failed to meet its $60 million-plus weekend projections. Also, it came in behind Prince of Freaking Persia. For shame.
Industry analysis gives a few explanations: overall ticket sales are down 6.6% since May, and Memorial Day ticket sales were down 15% from last year. But even with that in mind, this movie was destined to be a financial disappointment (comparatively speaking) out of the gate. Three reasons why:
1. Horrible Marketing
We've carped at length about the degree to which the posters have been airbrushed and Photoshopped far past the point of believability; they evoked not a movie about four women, but a documentary about a dangerous and diaphanous glitter bomb. Combined with smeary-airbrushed faces and limbs, the overall effect is so overdone that the movie's posters become a more compelling image than any live-action movie itself.
For comparison, take the solo-Carrie poster from the first film (above left). It's pretty simple: single gal steps out for a night clearly in the city (Times Square, to be exact). Her eyes are bright, her expression is one of likable satisfaction. But in 2010, Carrie is blinding, mouth slightly agape — the magic of her life simply takes her breath away! Unfortunately, the most eye-catching part of the image is the gold sunglasses, in which the desert of Abu Dhabi is reflected (another mistake; this is not Sex and the Sand Dunes). Worse, those damned sunglasses don't allow us to see Carrie's eyes, making the poster all the more soulless. New York, as depicted here, isn't a thriving metropolis so much as some sort of pearly-gated dream from which a Halston-clad apparition might emerge. In short, nothing about the image suggests that this movie features any kind of earthly body to which one might relate, not even on a wish-fulfillment level.
Ultimately, the effect of this advertising is an Avatar-esque interpretation of the franchise, rather than pushing the franchise itself. The selling point is no longer the characters or the stories or even the movie itself — it's simply that "they're back!" Which isn't really enough anymore, especially since we already had them "back" two summers ago.
2. No Real Storyline Potential
For the most part, audiences were left in the dark about the movie's major twists (I say that loosely) and developments — but even if there were leaks, would it have mattered? The television series ended with the ladies settling into their new realities — Carrie finally wound up with Big, Samantha was fighting cancer and committing to a relationship, etc. But things were left open-ended enough that for the big-screen followup, fans had at least a hint of "what's next" interest — i.e., if the story continued, where might it go? And audiences got an answer: Carrie got married, Samantha returned to fucking other people, Charlotte and Miranda struggled with whatever it is they do, and it all turned out okay. Loose ends were tied up, and one could safely assume that everyone lived fabulously ever after.
For the sequel, however, there weren't any lingering questions that anyone — even diehards, who at this point are just seeing the movie because that's what they do — needed answered. Carrie adjusting to marriage, Samantha getting older, Charlotte struggling with motherhood, Miranda working too hard — these "developments" are no brainers, story lines the audience could infer for themselves should they choose to contemplate the fictional existence of these women after the first film. They do not a narrative thread make. Nor does gallavanting around a Muslim country constitute some sort compelling story or, at the very least, suggest to the film's potential audience that there's some sort of character development or genuine subplot of interest. Without any questions or genuine "what nexts" remaining to be answered, seeing the film becomes even less-pressing than it might have already been. It's a film you get around to watching, not one you're compelled to see on opening weekend.
3. 146 Minutes
At nearly two-and-a-half hours, SATC2 is not really the kind of movie one sees on a whim (unless your schedule is blessedly wide-open at the exact same time you happen to walk by a theater). It requires planning, perhaps some clearing of the schedule, definitely some focus and stamina. Is it really worth it when nothing about it seems quite so compelling, or when you feel like you already know what's going to happen? (See: #2.)
Granted, the first movie ran 145 minutes. But the extra minute this time around really pushed things over the edge.