If filmmaker Ridley Scott has his way, Alien: Covenant won’t be the last movie in its franchise.
The sci-fi horror movie, released yesterday in US theaters, is one of eight films set in the Alien universe. And Scott, who is in full-on revival mode, has plans for as many as six more—but more likely, one or two. Covenant will need an impressive showing at the box office for studio 20th Century Fox to back any additional Alien titles.
No other Alien movie has performed as well at the domestic box-office as the 1979 original. When adjusted for inflation, the last Alien film, an oddly marketed 2012 prequel called Prometheus, only made half of what Alien did in the US and Canada—the world’s biggest box office—data from Box Office Mojo showed. And it took 33 years to get Scott, who directed both films, back into the franchise for that.
Covenant is also a sequel to Prometheus, which is still the third-highest grossing film in the franchise, domestically. It’s expected to have a smaller opening in the US and Canada than its predecessor did five years ago. That’s because sequels don’t usually perform as well as flagship films, with notable exceptions like the $1 billion-grossing The Dark Knight, from Christopher Nolan’s recent Batman trilogy. Covenant‘s box-office returns will likely be the high water-mark for any films that follow.
So why are they persisting? Internationally, Prometheus was the biggest draw of all the films.
Globally, the Alien franchise remains a huge name at the growing non-US box office. Those international markets could be the franchise’s saving grace, once again. They carried other, more recent installments like Alien vs. Predator and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. Two-thirds of Prometheus‘s box-office returns came from overseas. It was especially popular in places like the UK, Japan, and Russia.
This new movie has a robust marketing campaign driving audiences to theaters and is forecasted to pull in around $40 million domestically this weekend, about $11 million less than Prometheus debuted with, without adjusting for inflation. It’s on pace to quickly recoup its $100 million budget, combined with the estimated $46.7 million it’s already made in international markets like the UK, France, and Australia—and new regions where it’s still rolling out.
The movie has decent reviews. But, in Hollywood, “a sequel is really based on how much money the first one makes,” Dane Hallett, who worked on the concept art for Alien: Covenant, tells Quartz. “It’s not based on the fact that it’s an actual story arc from beginning to end.”