UPDATE: Sony Pictures is not known for risky moves. So all through the holidays rival studio execs were predicting that Amy Pascal et al would not go forward with the 2nd and 3rd film installments of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling Millennium trilogy The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest. That opinion was based on the mediocre opening for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Sure its domestic debut was significantly behind M:I4 and Sherlock 2, but it’s R-rated and both of those are PG-13. Then overseas grosses, expected to be huge, began trickling in underwhelming. GWDT opened only 3rd in the UK, and disappointing in Asia, and “not as good as hoped for” in Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. Now I’ve learned that Sony Pictures is indeed going forward with The Girl Who Played With Fire already written by Steve Zaillian, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest which Zaillian is penning. Studio chief Pascal and producer Scott Rudin have not yet locked in David Fincher as director. But they’re looking to start shooting #2 by the end of this year/beginning of next. Overseas, Sony now expects GWDT to do over $200M — so $300M all in globally. “And that’s a really good number,” the Sony exec told me hopefully. But one mogul counters, “The surprising part is that Sony is not waiting to see if the movie works overseas before going forward with the sequels. I would have.”
Right now Dragon Tattoo has amassed a $76.8M domestic cume and should get very close to $100M because it’s holding better than any other holiday movie. Sony and rival studios believe the movie’s box office was hurt by that long brutal rape scene not appropriate for a Christmas release. (“It’s a notch too dark for that window,” one studio chief tells me. Agrees a top Sony exec, “It was too cocky of us. We might think about that next time.”) Counting against GWDT was that the Hollywood version of the bestselling book had already been made into a Swedish film widely distributed beginning in 2009. Plus Zaillian and Fincher changed the first book’s ending. As for book #2, its challenge is that title character Lisbeth Salander (played by Rooney Mara) isn’t much in it. But Sony has changed that, too, and Zaillian’s script places her front and center again.