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Why We Never Got To See An Ender's Game Sequel

Not long after The Twilight Saga concluded, Summit Entertainment geared up for its next young adult franchise: Ender's Game. Based on the Orson Scott Card novel of the same name, Ender's Game was envisioned as the first in a series of new sci-fi films—but the series got canned long before its completion. Here's why we never got to see an Ender's Game sequel.

Ender's Game bombed at the box office

Hollywood is a business—people tend to forget that at times. Studio executives would love to make whatever movies they want, but they have to make sure they'll make their money back ... and then some. So when Ender's Game grossed a mere $125.5 million worldwide against a production budget of $110 million, that showed Lionsgate that audiences weren't willing to put up with an Ender's Game franchise. Variety called it one of the biggest box office bombs of the year. That's partially why the studio canceled any plans to complete the series.

There are countless reasons why a movie would flop at the box office—poorly cast, bad marketing, tired story, etc.—but for this particular film, an argument can be made that Orson Scott Card's opposition to homosexuality and the legalization of same-sex marriage led a number of people, especially those who were on the fence about seeing Ender's Game, to boycott the movie altogether.

We don't know how much of an impact the boycott had on the movie's box office take, but there's no denying that in a politically charged climate, any negative press against a film like Ender's Game couldn't have helped.

There were budget constraints

Budget constraints are an ordinary occurrence in Hollywood, but it's almost never a good thing when it happens. For instance, Twentieth Century Fox kept the budget low for James Mangold's Logan because the director and Hugh Jackman wanted the film to be rated R. While that ended up working in their favor, a studio usually constrains a movie's budget if it doesn't seem like the film will be as successful as initially hoped. That rings true for the would-be Ender's Game sequel.

The first movie had a production budget of $110 million, a fairly typical amount for a sci-fi flick, but the sequel might have seen that number dip below the $100 million mark. Gavin Hood originally wanted to film the first and second movies back to back, but Lionsgate wasn't up for that much of a gamble. "It's a pity on many levels because that cast was all there, the sets were all there, we should've shot the two movies back-to-back," Hood told Hypable.

Lionsgate's stock getting downgraded ahead of the first movie's release surely couldn't have helped Hood's ambitions for a sequel.

Young adult novels are a tired trend

Before superhero movies fully took over Hollywood, each studio was attempting to launch its own young adult franchise in the vein of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Some were successful, but most weren't. Some had the potential to be hugely successful if they closely adhered to the source material or didn't cut scenes and alter various subplots of the story. At this point, young adult adaptations are a tired trend that audiences no longer seem interested in paying fo

Most of the top grossing young adult adaptations so far have come from three franchises: Twilight, Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games. The rest of the movies did moderately well, but none were as overwhelmingly successful like the aforementioned three. Young adult adaptations can be successful if budgets are kept low and if the movies are marketed properly. Unfortunately, every studio wants to believe they're sitting on a gold mine, so they go full-steam ahead with the first installment, which leaves little room for expansion in the sequel.

The actors are too old for their roles (and perhaps too famous)

Ender's Game is a young adult novel, and its sequel, Ender's Shadow, takes place concurrently with the first book. So if the studio really wanted to adapt the second novel in the series, it would have made more sense to film back-to-back, as Gavin Hood originally wanted to do. Several years have passed, and now Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfeld are far older than their pre-teen characters in the books. It makes no sense to continue the series at this stage.

Even if Lionsgate and the cast were to consider a sequel, could the studio afford it? Hood made no secret about having difficulties obtaining enough money for Ender's Game, as well as having his idea for filming Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow shot down. If he was having trouble getting $110 million in 2013, he's not going to be able to get enough money now. Butterfield has starred in several other young adult-oriented movies, such as Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and The Space Between Us; Steinfeld is branching out in movies like the Pitch Perfect series and The Edge of Seventeen.

Then there are the bigger actors like Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, and Viola Davis. With Ford returning to his iconic characters—Han Solo, Rick Deckard, and Indiana Jones—he would be a difficult person to nail down for a young adult movie. To get all these people together again would likely require more money than Lionsgate would be willing to cough up.

The studio is considering a TV spinoff instead

There are several novels in the Ender's Game series, and even more in the Shadow and Formic Wars series. Just like with Harry Potter, an argument can be made that the franchise could work better as a television series instead of a feature-film franchise. Whether that's true for Harry Potter or not is something we may never find out. (Give it a shot, Netflix!) But it would make sense for Ender's Game. The first two novels in series unfold over the course of a few years, which would allow audiences to see Ender Wiggin go through school and eventually fight the Formics.

Shortly after the movie released in theaters, Variety reported that the studio was pondering a TV series spinoff instead of a sequel. Since there were issues getting the necessary money for the first movie and it didn't do so well at the box office, it makes sense for the studio to look at other options. Unfortunately, there haven't been any updates on the TV front since that report in 2013, so who knows if it'll even happen.