It's only been a few days since Ender's Game hit theaters, and the movie industry is still trying to process whether the best selling book-to-film adaptation is actually proving a success.
To be sure, the $110 million sci-fi thriller from Lionsgate (NYSE:LGF-A) and Summit Entertainment opened to a modest $28 million domestic debut last weekend. However, the incredibly strong start overseas by Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Thor: The Dark World has spurred worries Ender's Game's momentum could be thwarted before before it even begins.
But if you'll excuse my impatience, there's one question fans have been asking ever since production for Ender's Game was announced: Will there be a sequel?
The stories are there
After all, the source material is certainly there. Author Orson Scott Card released the original novel in 1985, but has since expanded the series -- which is affectionately called the "Enderverse" or the "Ender saga" by fans -- to 13 separate novels, a series of short stories, and several dozen comic book issues. What's more, Card even announced last Friday he's working on adding even more books to the series with a new set of prequels.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether Card's outsoken personal views would get in the way of turning those new works into films. Specifically, the challenge would become especially apparent considering Lionsgate this time had to go to great lengths to try and overcome boycotts, including distancing itself from the author and assuring audiences the story itself conveys none of the opinions in question.
The creative team's on board
But based on subsequent interviews with director Gavin Hood, it has also become apparent he's already mulling over ideas on how to implement future Ender saga films.
Last week in an LA Times interview, for instance, Hood danced around the idea of making a sequel by suggesting its a "difficult question to answer," at least given the fact Ender's Game boasts such complicated underlying moral themes. However, Hood also rightly hinted any sequel would largely depend on how audiences respond to the first film.
Curiously enough, though he simultaneously noted the second book in the series, Speaker for the Dead takes place 30 years after the original book's events, which would negate any chronological issues stemming from his current cast's stubborn propensity for becoming adults.
But that's also why Hood earlier confirmed he had wanted to simultaneously shoot Ender's Game with Ender's Shadow, the fifth book in Card's franchise, through which readers get to view the events of Ender's Game from the perspective of another major character named Bean. However, Hood lamented it was difficult enough to secure the required $110 million to fund one movie, let alone two to be filmed at the same time.
Here's the problem
And that brings us full circle to the biggest obstacle to an Ender's Game sequel: money.
Needless to say, everybody knows the potential is there. After all, each of the top four highest grossing films worldwide in 2013 so far are either sequels or prequels -- the esteemed list includes Disney's Iron Man 3, Comcast Universal's Despicable Me 2 and Fast & Furious 6, and Disney Pixar's Monster's University. What's more, Time Warner's Warner Bros. has already announced plans for a 2015 sequel to current fifth-place contender Man of Steel.
But if one thing's for sure, it's that nobody's going to fund another Ender series film if it's not profitable.
That said, Ender's Game may not be in the same financial league as any of the above-mentioned big shots, but that doesn't mean it can't make money for anyone involved.
Remember, only yesterday I noted the film still has a ways to go with its international roll-out. As a result, and despite its upcoming box office competition, I think it's quite possible Ender's Game will be able to run up the score over the coming months if its overseas distributors are able to intelligently time their prints and advertising spending to selectively coincide with any future box office lulls.
For the record, that's exactly how the folks at DreamWorks recently salvaged an even slower box office start a few months ago by their animated snail racing flick, Turbo.
And lest we forget, Ender's Game's financiers can also look forward to benefiting from equally important home entertainment sales down the road.
All things considered, then, I'm convinced all Ender's Game needs to do at this point is to simply prove its financial worth. If that happens, and with all other pieces in place, I don't think it'll be long before we're reading about the next big-screen chapter of this franchise.