Will Firestarter’s Box Office Failure Kill Stephen King Movies?
Firestarter flopping at the box office could have big implications for Children of the Corn, Salem's Lot and future Stephen King movie adaptations.
The box office failure of Firestarter could lead to future Stephen King movies being canceled or downsized despite the horror author’s enduring popularity. There are a lot of Stephen King adaptations scheduled for release in the coming months. Salem’s Lot is set to be one of 2022's most anticipated horror movies, and Paramount Plus is currently producing a Pet Sematary prequel due to the success of 2019’s remake.
However, the disastrous box office performance of Firestarter may signal an end to big-budget theatrical adaptations of King’s work. There are numerous King adaptations, such as The Institute that were already slated for small-screen adaptations, and this could become more common due to Firestarter’s failure. While King’s writing remains popular among viewers, the boom of King movies that started with the outsized success of IT in 2017 could be reaching its end.
Firestarter bombed at the box office, earning a paltry $10.7 million (and woeful reviews). This shouldn’t hurt big King adaptations like Salem's Lot, which benefit from more famous, well-remembered source material (and earlier adaptations). However, Firestarter’s box office failure was still a big, unexpected disappointment as the remake seemed poised to cash in on the popularity of superhero stories. Since King’s writing has also historically proven well-suited to the less financially risky realm of television miniseries, there is a good chance that Firestarter’s remake will lead to studios taking a more cautious approach when it comes to green lighting adaptations for the big screen. After all, the last big-budget theatrical adaptation of King’s work, the belated The Shining sequel Dr. Sleep, also underperformed upon its 2019 release.
As a result, the failure of Firestarter could send director Kurt Wimmer’s already-delayed Children of the Corn remake straight to VOD, even though it will likely do little to dampen enthusiasm for Salem’s Lot. Salem’s Lot is adapted from a critically acclaimed miniseries (and novel), whereas both Children of the Corn and 2022’s flawed Firestarter remake are based on 80s movies that critics also panned the first time around. Following Dr. Sleep’s failure, Firestarter’s especially weak debut will almost inevitably discourage further big-budget big-screen investment in the author for the time being.
However, all hope is not lost for King fans. Some of King’s best adaptations have been television miniseries, and some of the author’s most underrated movie adaptations have been mid-budget releases that weren’t surrounded by hype. The likes of 1408 and Misery were not costly productions like Firestarter, meaning they weren’t as heavily touted and didn’t flop upon release as a result. While some of King’s storytelling is epic in scope, many of the author’s stories are self-contained and perfectly suited to low-budget adaptations like the terrifying Gerald’s Game. As such, Firestarter’s failure won’t kill Stephen King adaptations entirely, even if it does contribute to a slow down in the number of big-budget blockbusters based on the writer’s work.