Honestly the key reason Blade Runner 2049 disappointed is the budget. There's little to no reason why the movie should have cost $150 million. I felt the marketing campaign was superb - perhaps they went after the wrong crowds because I felt the marketing for the film was ubiquitous & nonstop while I'd never even heard of Happy Death Day until it was in theaters & I'm not some pop culture Luddite - & the original Blade Runner is a film that has an equal present standing in pop culture as say the original Mad Max Trilogy. BUT, smart slow-moving character stories are sadly not the thing that can draw in the crowds needed to support a $150 million budget. Never did, never will. This issue of smart films finding an audience theatrically is multiplied when dealing with international markets & people viewing the film in other languages. People can knock James Cameron for the basic story of AVATAR but he knew what he was trying to do with that film, how much it cost & how elemental he needed that story to be in order to lure audiences to what was essentially an original film*. And it worked to the tune of $3 billion theatrically. Blade Runner 2049 meanwhile, while a more conventional narrative, is still playing in more arthouse sensibilities with character, theme & pacing. That keeps people at bay or at least at home until home video. A weird movie like Blade Runner 2049 might let Joe Average down, while he knows if he goes to see Thor 3: It's Perfectly Fine But Forgettable he will get to see that Thor dude punch a guy in the face with a hammer.
The cinema world was very different when the first Blade Runner came out but heavy thought minded movies have never been the thing of blockbusters. Sure, blockbusters can sneak in intellectually rich themes & concepts - the glorious feminism of Mad Max: Fury Road, the 9/11 allegories of War of the Worlds 2005, almost everything in The Dark Knight but they hide it all with big action set pieces & classic blockbuster tricks.
Either way, Blade Runner 2049 being a money loss in theaters is perfectly in tune with the original. Denis Villeneuve's strong & complimentary (but not surpassing) sequel works great & should inspire a lot of filmmakers & storytellers. It will have a much longer life in the world of storytelling than say Spider-man: Homecoming or Beauty & the Beast 2017. Also on the bright side the financial disappointment of the film protects us from the diminishing quality of a never-ending franchise. No Blade Runner 2051 coming out in two years. I also don't think we'll be seeing Blade Runner 2079 in 30 years.
*Knocking the movie as "Braveheart with Aliens" is a justifiable criticism but you can't undersell how successful the film is when it had no previous presence in pop culture. There were no Avatar Comics that kids grew up on, no books, no nothing. I'm hoping Cameron has plans to deepen the narrative in the sequels now that people know Pandora but even if he doesn't I'm sure the technical filmmaking will make up for the simple stories.