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SYFY WIRE doctor sleep

Doctor Sleep sequel was already in the works before weak box office opening

By Josh Weiss
Doctor Sleep poster

Doctor Sleep was supposed to be the gift that kept on giving, but things didn't work out so well for Warner Bros. this past weekend. Instead of hitting projections of $25 million or more, the Stephen King-inspired flick from writer/director Mike Flanagan (Gerald's GameThe Haunting of Hill House) only managed a meager $14.1 million from domestic ticket sales. In foreign markets, the release racked up $13 million for a global debut of just $34 million.

Not the best sign for a movie that cost around $50 million to produce.

This lackluster box office performance may end up putting the kibosh on a planned sequel/spinoff to Doctor Sleep, which itself serves as a direct follow-up to The Shining — both the novel by King and the 1980 film adaptation by Stanley Kubrick.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. was so confident of Flanagan's project the studio already struck a deal with the filmmaker's production company, Intrepid Pictures, and ordered a script for a movie centered around Danny Torrance's friend and mentor, Richard "Dick" Hallorann.

The former head chef at the Overlook Hotel, Dick is a major character in The Shining and Doctor Sleep. Thanks to his own psychic abilities, he was able to save Danny and his mother Wendy from being killed by Jack Torrance in the first novel. In the movie version that King detested, Hallorann (played by Scatman Crothers) ends up murdered.

The Shining

While he gets more of a supporting role in Doctor Sleep, his mental tricks for thwarting the ghosts of the past really help Danny cope with his childhood trauma from the Overlook. Despite passing away during Dan's many years of alcoholism, Dick briefly returns from the afterlife to warn Danny about the True Knot. In the new film, Dick, now played by Carl Lumbly, returns, although his onscreen death isn't retconned.

"I hope [audiences] kind of extract everything that [Stephen King] wanted to say about recovery and trauma and responsibility and sacrifice and pull all those notes out of the movie," Flanagan previously told SYFY WIRE about Doctor Sleep. "More than anything, I’m looking forward to this ulcer that’s been chewing away at me for the last two years to go away and then all the opinions will be out and everybody will have said their piece and it’ll be over. No matter what happens now, Stephen King loved the movie and the Stanley Kubrick estate loved the movie. And to me I’m like, 'Okay, I’m done. That was it. That was what I wanted. I got the joy of being able to do it, and now I’m going to quietly slink back to my TV show [The Haunting of Bly Manor] and go back and play with ghosts.'"

Per THR, the adaptation may have partially struggled to its lengthy run time (151 minutes) that limits possible screenings, as well as a lack of awareness about The Shining among millennials and Gen Z-ers. Some industry experts believe that a nearly 40-year gap between films was just too long. With that said, it would be very cool to see a story about Dick's supernatural adventures with the shining when he was younger, especially since there is no written King "canon" sequel or prequel to The Shining other than Doctor Sleep. That means the creative playing field is wide open for a Secrets of the Mogwai-type approach.

Additional reporting by Caitlin Busch