Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Chair Joe Drake had much to celebrate this morning. The studio reaped a record global and domestic box office debut for the John Wick franchise, with John Wick: Chapter 4 making $137.5M WW and $73.5M. The fourthquel was the best-received John Wick of all-time with audiences (A CinemaScore) and critics (95% certified fresh). The movie is arguably the second-best global opening for Reeves, after The Matrix Revolution’s $201.4M.
Despite Chapter 4 being the arguable swan song of Reeves’ martial arts maestro title character in the core canon, Drake tells Deadline today, “We’re not ready to say goodbye to Keanu with this franchise. It’s what alternative there will be.”
Reeves already confirmed before a rapturous SXSW audience that he’ll be back for the John Wick spinoff, The Ballerina, starring Ana de Armas and directed by Len Wiseman. But the hope by Drake is that there’s even more for Reeves left in the canon.
“There’s a lot of different things that we can do,” Drake adds.
“I’ve seen this movie five times in the last week,” the exec says. “I can see the way that the audience moves him.”
In regards to when we’ll see The Ballerina, Drake tells us a 2024 date is planned, in either the spring or summer. The originally conceived Starz series (now moved to Peacock) John Wick spinoff, The Continental, is potentially eyeing a fall premiere, Drake telling us that, “The episodes are nearly finished.”
John Wick movies have played all over the calendar, including the first one in October 2014, the second in February 2017, and the third in May 2019. The fourthquel previously had a Memorial Day weekend release in 2022, before production delays pushed it to its current March 24-26 frame (Chapter 4 was finished at the end of last year). Drake told us that March seemed ripe, as Lionsgate had great luck on this weekend with the first Hunger Games ($152.5M opening).
“We liked March as a place to get it open,” he adds, “The history is there for us. There’s a nice runway here, as I think the movie can run and run, given its CinemaScore.”
In regards to marketing, what was key was not selling the pic as the same old, same old “This is the end” of John Wick. Rather, emphasizing — per the exec — that “John Wick is not a superhero. He’s a man who has lost the only thing that he’s loved at the beginning of this franchise; everything he did after that has motivated his actions. (He’s) a man in search of peace. There’s a chance that John Wick could find peace.”
“We saw a way to enrich the audience experience, that he might find peace, that he might have a chance out.”
A key image in the one sheets was the hourglass “tie” image filled with bullet shells hanging around John Wick’s neck.
What continually amazes is how John Wick is a non-superhero, original franchise, which has mushroomed at the box office after audiences found the first film in the home entertainment window and turned its sequels into tentpoles. The first John Wick opened to $14.4M in October 2014 and finaled at $43M domestic, $86M WW. John Wick: Chapter 2 got bigger in February 2017 with a $30.4M U.S./Canada start, and final stateside of $92M and $174.3M WW. Then 2019’s John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum reached bigger heights, with a $56.8M domestic opening, a $171M final, and $328.3M WW take. With the opening of Chapter 4, the John Wick franchise now stands at $726.2M.
It was commonplace back in the 1980s and 1990s for franchises to build big screen afterlives out of their popularity at home, Austin Powers being one of the great textbook examples. John Wick was an old-school example, blazing a trail in an era when DVD sales were faltering and streaming butting up against the big screen in regards to the types of movies which work.
In terms of that home entertainment-to-big screen phenomenon, is John Wick the last of its kind?
Says Drake, it’s these types of successes in the motion picture business which “gets me up every morning.”
“We had a tiny movie in John Wick, and a tiny movie in The Hunger Games,” says Drake, “I believe there’s another one.”