The 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie reboot from producer Michael Bay and director Jonathan Liebesman didn’t fare well with critics, but was a success in terms of ticket sales (see its $493 million worldwide gross). This year’s sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, only fared a little better with critics on the whole, but failed to reach the same level of audience engagement – as evidenced by its own global box office take (just under $246 million or not quite half that of what its predecessor took in).
Out of the Shadows was produced on a budget of $135 million (not counting marketing costs), so its commercial under-performance makes it unlikely that a third installment in the current TMNT film series will be happening. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brand will no doubt continue to live on in other mediums (television, video games), but it may be back to the drawing board now, as far as the live-action Turtles films are concerned.
During an interview Collider, TMNT franchise producer Andrew Form was promoting the recently-released Ouija: Origin of Evil – when he was asked about Out of the Shadows and what the film’s general under-performance means for the TMNT movie brand. Form spoke candidly about the sequel’s critical/commercial returns and the difficulty of measuring exactly what audiences actually wanted from the long-lived, often-reimagined, TMNT property. Said Form:
“We were obviously surprised at the box office results. We loved the movie. We loved making the movie. From our first Super Bowl teaser to everything we launched, we felt so good about our material, and for some reason it did not find the audience that the first movie found. And we talk about it all the time, and we tried to figure it out, but we cannot put our finger on what happened.”
Many TMTN fans, as well as critics in general, noted that Out of the Shadows director Dave Green was clearly striving to channel the spirit of the 1980s TMNT cartoon series with his sequel – by incorporating such fan-favorite characters as Bebop and Rocksteady, as well as the alien Krang and the human vigilante Casey Jones, into a movie that included the main cast of the 2014 TMNT reboot. Form admitted that he and his fellow producers with pleased with Green’s approach, making the sequel’s drop-off at the box office all the more disappointing and unexpected:
“We really can’t [explain it]. It’s just one of those things where we feel like we made a really great movie; we thought at the time that our release date was great, and we added all these new characters with Bebop and Rocksteady and Baxter Stockwell had a big role in the movie and Casey Jones and for some reason when it came to opening weekend…Even before the movie came out, we were feeling great. And you wake up two days before the movie opens and you go, “Wow, I don’t know if this movie is tracking as well as it should.” Then you hope, and then Thursday night happens and your midnights come in and you’re like, “That’s not what Movie 1 did,” and then sure enough your weekend comes and it’s nowhere near what anyone thought, and it’s nowhere near Movie 1, and, before you know it, it’s over. We’re still so proud of the movie; it just didn’t find an audience. We really don’t know why.”
Later in the interview, Form was asked directly about the prospects of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 and indicated that no plans are currently underway for a continuation. He did stop short of declaring the TMNT brand “dead” as a theatrical property – suggesting that the characters could return to the big screen in another alternate incarnation. An animated TV show version of the property is currently running on Nickelodeon to generally positive ratings and critical appraisal, so again: the Turtles aren’t completely down for the count just yet.
We’ll bring you more information on the future of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise as it becomes available.