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Well, that didn’t take long…

Hot on the heels of an impressive domestic opening, which saw the film take in $32.5 million, The Maze Runner now has a sequel on the way. And it’s coming next year! Can you say, “Striking while the iron is hot”? But that nice domestic haul isn’t all: The film also nabbed $37.6 million in foreign markets, for a worldwide cume of $81.5 million.

What makes this so notable is that, in terms of modern blockbuster filmmaking, The Maze Runner cost two handfuls of peanuts to make. This film, which is now officially the launchpad for a new Fox franchise, cost just $34 million to produce. Let’s put this into perspective. This film is meant to stand alongside other recent Young Adult novel adaptations, like The Hunger Games and Divergent. The first films in those franchises cost $78 million and $85 million to make, respectively. This means that the folks behind Maze Runner were able to launch a viable, mainstream franchise for less than half what it cost to make those other comparable titles.

Also of note, despite so-so reviews from critics, the film got an A- CinemaScore from fans, which means it could have some legs. You’ve got to believe there was a lot of high-fiving on the Twentieth Century Fox lot this weekend.

Now, let’s get to this sequel business. Fox has announced that The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials will be opening next year, on September 18. They’ve also all ready released a teaser poster, using concept art:

The film is apparently set in Metropolis, directly following the events depicted at the end of 'Man of Steel."

The film is apparently set in Metropolis, directly following the events depicted at the end of ‘Man of Steel.”

Director Wes Ball, having done such a fine job for the studio putting the film together with relatively tight purse-strings, will be back. The film is all ready in pre-production, and he told a crowd at SDCC way back when that they’d start filming later this fall if this first film was a hit. Ball and his team must have some sort of secret they’re keeping all to themselves, since they plan on filming, editing, and doing a ton of effects-heavy post-production in time for a release that’s just under a year away.

Should The Maze Runner continue to bare fruit for Fox, you can bet that the other major studios will soon start looking for ways to do what Fox has done here. During a time where budgets for franchise blockbusters range from $75 million to $200 million per entry, being able to create hits for under $35 million has got to be quite appealing. Until now, this sort of Low Cost/High Reward filmmaking was most closely related to the horror genre. If it can now be applied to action-adventures, this could be good for everyone– including us, the fans.

Lower price tags tend to mean that studios will be more willing to take risks, and make films that aren’t so cookie cutter. This could lead to exciting opportunities for writers with edgier ideas, and filmgoers that crave greater variety in the types of stories being told. Not to mention, if studios aren’t rationing off huge portions of their cash to make three or four “big” movies a year, then that could mean they’ll make seven or eight smaller films.

It’s too soon to get too excited, but mark my words, what Maze Runner has done here could send ripples throughout the film industry for years to come. It’s something worth keeping an eye on.

SOURCE: THR