Released almost 30 years after the last film in the franchise, Bill & Ted Face the Music had some big shoes to fill. The original two films are widely considered cult classics, but for many old fans, the new release fell flat. So, what exactly led to this situation, and what made the new movie all but inevitable in the eyes of many industry experts?
Box Office Performance
The first two Bill & Ted films didn’t have the biggest budgets, but they still achieved commercial and cultural success. The first, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, made $40 million on a $10 million budget. Released in 1989, it was a comedy that defied expectations. Similar compliments could be given to 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, which made $38 million on a $20 million budget. As popular as both films were, there was an obvious downward trajectory here in terms of performance, but since they both easily broke even, this second film wasn’t seen as a necessary endpoint for the series.
Extensions and Expectations
There’s a common complaint that has been increasingly leveraged against Hollywood in the last few decades; that it’s running out of ideas. Rather than new properties, major studios tend to turn towards older and established names, to leverage nostalgia and bring former success stories to new audiences. We saw this with Indiana Jones, Tron, Wall Street, Ghostbusters, and, eventually, Bill & Ted.
On its face, this turning back of the clock isn’t always a bad thing. With the proper approach, newer entries could appeal to old fans and bring in new ones, but this is a difficult balancing point to achieve. Something like Blade Runner 2049, which was well received and a commercial success, managed to combine the sensibilities of the old with the new era, but this was more the exception than the rule.
Rather than major films, many of the more successful takes on older franchises have come from smaller endeavors like creating collectibles and related media. For Bill & Ted, this was demonstrated by interactive entertainment experiences like the Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures slot commonly found at NJ online casinos such as Mohegan Sun Casino. At their surface, services like these rely on specials like bonuses and deposit matches to bring in customers, but it’s the games that keep players coming back.
Over time, Bill & Ted’s fame firmly placed it within the western zeitgeist. This is how outside media like its slot game became and stayed popular, but within the film industry, this acted as a double-edged sword. As popular as this series was, it caused studios to overestimate how much newcomers would be interested in a new title.
Make no mistake, the old movies still hold up, but they’re also products of their time. They existed before the digital and internet age, so their tropes don’t quite gel with the modern audience. Combine this with shifting comedic tones and values, and making a successful sequel for such a series which leaned so heavily into the late 80s and early 90s culture was always going to be an uphill battle.
While it’s still too early to tell the long-term relevance of Bill & Ted Face the Music, the fact that it made $6.2 million from a $25 million budget is not an encouraging sign. That said, some movies only find their legs years after release, and this is doubly true for those with cult followings. At least, at the end of the day, we still have the originals, and there’s nothing stopping fans from deciding on the canon that makes them the happiest.