It looks like Serenity will have had another bad showing this weekend. A 51% drop at the box office hurts; I'm far less hopeful for a sequel, let alone two.
Then again, given Wash's death, I'm not sure that I'm all that concerned about seeing more. The death was unnecessary, and seemed more than a little capricious.* It was also disheartening: it demonstrated a certain Naturalistic streak in Joss Whedon that disappointed me, and that ultimately detracts even from my complete enjoyment of the Firefly series itself.
Yes, people die, and they often die in random and meaningless ways. And, certainly, seeing Wash die disabused me of any illusions that the main characters were untouchable as they headed into the final scenes (in a way that Book's death didn't, perhaps because it happened so much earlier in the movie, and because it happened for a reason). There's no doubt that it heightened the sense of drama for me, which may have been Whedon's purpose.
However, I don't go to movies simply to experience another expression of reality; I go to see things as they can and should be. Nor do I go merely to be manipulated by cheap tricks. There are many other ways that Whedon could have impressed upon me the deadly nature of the situation, if the presence of rabid cannibals weren't already enough.
No, I went to see Serenity, as I imagine many other fans did, primarily because I missed the characters as I miss good friends. Seeing one of them die in so meaningless a fashion was nothing but a shock. It contributed nothing to my enjoyment of the film, nor did it manage to generate closure given the series's unfinished business. Instead, it merely left me with a bad taste.
There are other, deeper philosophical issues that I have with the movie, including the seeming transformation of the Alliance from an evil, totalitarian government to one with merely too heightened a sense of caring. However, Wash's death was the principle reason why I didn't go see the movie again; given its performance at the box office, I somehow doubt that I'm the only one.
*I'm not too worried about spoilers at this point, for a couple of reasons. First, I doubt that anyone (at all) will read this. Second, anyone for whom this is truly a spoiler will likely have already seen the movie, and if they haven't, I doubt that it's any longer a secret.