In a broad sense, you’re right, Jeff. Fear sells. And will continue to. But I think there’s a bit more nuance in this particular case (having not seen Tomorrowland myself yet). And it’s no surprise.
In order to quite literally “flip the script,” I believe a film will have to be so good that it cannot be ignored. In effect, it will have to jump-start the utopian film genre that has been dead for so long. Tomorrowland, while it sounds pretty decent, is not that film. It has to be great.
The issue is greater than dystopia versus utopia, it’s also new utopian films versus the current status quo in Hollywood. To wit, this weekend in Hollywoodland, Tomorrowland barely beat out the week-old Pitch Perfect 2. That film had everything going for it that Tomorrowland did not. Namely, it was a sequel, whereas Tomorrowland was an original script.
How crazy is sequel culture in Hollywood right now? Pitch Perfect 2, made more in its first weekend than the original version made overall at the box office. In other words, original content has a very, very tiny window for success. And so: the Tomorrowland miss.
If Tomorrowland can eek out a profit and a sequel gets greenlit, I would bet a lot of money that the sequel will do better than the original — again, before I’ve even seen the original. That’s just the world we currently inhabit. It’s a sort of dystopia for film, I suppose.