Timing’s tricky on releasing pic sequels

HOLLYWOOD — Studios are attempting to address a new dilemma brought on by radical changes in the distribution and exhibition of films. The boom in videocassettes and cable programming provides scant breathing space between theatrical and ancillary markets.

Blitz booking on 1,800 screens and more has virtually erased platform strategies.

The one question in the equation: When is it too late — or too early — to weigh in with the next chapter?

Filmmaker David Zucker (“Naked Gun” and “Airplane”) wrestled with the question humorously in a recent New York Times article. His telltale signs of procrastination included: The only video copies of the original are on Betamax and the young director who got his first big break on the original has just won the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Conversely, if the original is still playing in theaters and its lawsuits are still in the courts, the appropriate breathing space had not yet elapsed.

But two to three years between films remains the standard. Paramount’s “Addams Family Values,” last year’s top grossing sequel, opened almost two years to the day after the original, as did “Home Alone 2.””Beethoven’s 2nd” accelerated the period to 20 months, while the “Weekend at Bernie’s” sequel waited four years.

Next week’s “Major League II” follows the original by five years; “Beverly Hills Cop 3” arrives seven years after the second. But “D2: The Mighty Ducks” is just 17 months behind the original flock.

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