9 Years of Sin: The Failure of “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”

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There are some interesting collations between this newest “Sin City” entry, “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”, and the recent “300” sequel, “300: Rise of An Empire”. Both are based off the works of Frank Miller, both come out long after the original first debuted in theaters, and each one of them have a unique, stylistic and comic book art direction. The biggest difference between the two is “300” has a much larger fan base. “300” grossed nearly 300 million more than the original “Sin City” and had a more likely chance at success. Many began to wonder if the time between the original and this new “Sin City” sequel would hurt the film at the box office?

It’s certainly a fair question. At the time of its release, “Sin City” was out around a different climate of comic book movies than what we’ve got today. This was only 5 years after “X-Men” exploded onto the scene and redefined the superhero genre as a whole. We started to see a slew of new comic book movie coming out right after that. Sami Rami’s “Spider-Man” was released in 2002, “Daredevil” in 2003, “X-2”, “A league of Extrondary Gentleman “, “From Hell”, among many others. Not all of these films were good but we started to see an uptick of quality in the comic book genre. Studios were taking risks and trying to experiment with the genre. In this realm I think there was more room for a unique film like “Sin City”. With its film noir/black and white style, no one had ever seen anything like “Sin City”. The imagines on the screen were ripped straight off the pages of the comic book and was a success at the box office. “Sin City” grossed nearly 160 million dollars worldwide on a 40 million dollar budget. It had great success on the home video market and was well received by critics. It would go on to inspire such films as “300” and “The Spirit”. It would only make sense to make a sequel while in the midst of all this success.

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Yet for some reason the studio never pulled the trigger. I’ve done some digging and can’t come up with any concrete reason on why a sequel wasn’t released until 9 year after the original. Strike while the iron is hot as the old saying goes, and it appears that Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez were prepared to do that, yet the studio didn’t go through with it.

Flash forward to today’s comic book climate, big budget PG-13 superheroes rule at the box office. With its biggest successes going to both Marvel and DC Comics properties. Graphic novel based movies seem to be less used, and when they did they took the form of “Priest 3D” and “I, Frankenstein”. Even the popular graphic novel turned feature film “Watchmen” didn’t make the splash it needed to make its money back at the box office. So with each passing year the popularity of “Sin City” waned and was looked fondly upon but the demand for a sequel seem to subside. Then again no one wanted a “300” sequel yet that got made.

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Unlike “300: Rise of an Empire” (again based off the works of Frank Miller) this movie has bombed. Debuting with just 6 million dollars at the box office when its predecessor made around 26 million opening weekend. With an estimated 60 million dollar production budget, and the film only currently at 12 million dollars at the box office (worldwide), I think it’s fair to say this won’t make even the production budget back. Yet “300: Rise of an Empire” ended up grossing over 300 million dollars. How did one succeed when the other failed? There are a few reasons other than some I highlighted above.

The first thing to point out that “300” was a much more popular film than “Sin City” and had a good marketing campaign. Even people were dead against its sequel seemed a bit more interested and gave it a shot. It got mixed reviews but a well timed March release date along with good marketing, made the sequel a success even though the box office dropped (which does highlight some of the general disinterest in it).

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Now “Sin City” did the exact opposite. “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” had much more potential as a sequel from a narrative point of view but waiting for 9 years did indeed hurt the film. Although the box office of the first film was a success, it wasn’t the highest grossing film ever. So, waiting that extra time hurt it’s connection with the general audience instead of capitalizing on the success it already had. Then the last two things that hurt it was the marketing and release date. The marketing wasn’t that great. It wasn’t terrible but with all of the trailers and posters there was a large feeling going around of “meh”. The hardcore fans didn’t seem all that interested and the general audience forgot about it when it came out because of the poorly placed release date. This came out a couple weeks after “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” at the tail end of the summer season when people are starting to go back to school or work. Why would they waste their time with “Sin City” when they can catch the latest entry in a beloved series?

Originally I would have said March would have been a good release date but then you have to contend with “300: Rise of an Empire” and “Divergent”. Why not push it back a little bit more in September? There are really any huge movies until September 19th with “Maze Runner”. The studio could have taken advantage of the low competition and with a better marketing campaign, they maybe could have been better set for success.

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Then again perhaps even that couldn’t have helped it that much. Maybe 9 years was simple too much for the potential franchise to handle. I may not have been the biggest fan of “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” (lord knows my girlfriend wasn’t) but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t still more potential for the series. Instead it made the sin of waiting 9 years.

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