No one saw the lackluster performance of director Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep coming, not even Warner Bros. The studio had even planned for the filmmaker to immediately direct a follow-up to Doctor Sleep, a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror film The Shining. The planned follow-up would’ve been a prequel centered around the telepathic character Dick Hallorann, played by Scatman Crothers in The Shining and by Carl Lumbly in Doctor Sleep. Flanagan said in a series of tweets on Sunday that W.B. decided not to proceed with Hallorann‘s film because of Doctor Sleep’s poor performance at the box office.
Based on the novel by Stephen King, Doctor Sleep followed an adult Danny Torrance (played by Ewan McGregor) as he dealt with past trauma and learned to navigate life with his “shining” power. The film was released in theaters in 2019, where it grossed an underwhelming $72 million against a reported budget between $45 million and $55 million. The film’s financial underperformance was even more surprising because it arrived on the back of solid reviews, and renewed interest in King’s work after the blockbuster success of W.B.’s own It adaptations.
Reacting to a fan-made poster of the unmade Hallorann movie, Flanagan tweeted, “We were SO CLOSE. I’ll always regret this didn’t happen.” When a fan asked him why the project got canceled, the director replied, “Because of DOCTOR SLEEP’s box office performance, Warner Bros opted not to proceed with it. They control the rights, so that was that.”
This isn’t the first time that Flanagan has spoken about his Hallorann movie. In a 2020 appearance on the ReelBlend podcast, the filmmaker appeared to be cautiously optimistic about the project, and suggested that as long as Doctor Sleep draws audiences on streaming and other non-theatrical platforms, there could still be hope. But he admitted that conversations about the Hallorann film had “understandably cooled off” after the release of Doctor Sleep. Providing more details about the planned prequel, he said:
“We actually had quite a bit worked out for that one. That was meant to be the thing I went right into off of Doctor Sleep. … It was very much its own [story]. I don’t want to spoil anything. At the same time, I’m like, ‘Hmmm, maybe if this doesn’t happen, it’d be fun to talk about it.’ I’d be happy to come back. I’d be honored to come back. Hallorann was always more about Dick as a younger man learning about the shining. And the Doctor Sleep novel tees up a prologue for it perfectly with the story of his grandmother and his grandfather. Which he tells a little bit of in this [movie]. But the idea was to open with him as Carl Lumbly, and then to find a way to go back into the past and kind of tell this other story that inevitably would, very much in the way Doctor Sleep did, inevitably bring us back to a familiar hotel. But I don’t know. I don’t know what we would do with it. I love it, though. And it was something we were real excited about. So I hope there’s a new life for it out there somewhere.”
Despite the box office underperformance of Doctor Sleep, Flanagan remains one of the most respected horror directors around, having amassed a wide body of work that has drawn significant acclaim. He previously directed another King adaptation — Gerald’s Game — for Netflix, and returned to work with the streamer on a handful of series such as the King-adjacent The Haunting of Hill House, its follow-up The Haunting of Bly Manor, and most recently, Midnight Mass. Next month, Netflix will debut The Midnight Club, co-created by Flanagan, and some months after that, will release The Fall of the House of Usher, also created by Flanagan.
Check out Flanagan‘s post