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‘American Reunion’: Beloved characters turn sleeper hit into franchise

Comedy Impact Report 2012: Film - The 'American Reunion' Ensemble

In July 1999 a low-budget, raunchy, R-rated teen comedy called “American Pie” was released. Thirteen years later, it has spawned three sequels and four direct-to-DVD spinoffs resulting in a $1.1 billion franchise.

The original pic grossed $102 million in the U.S. and $133 million overseas, making the teen sex farce a sleeper hit. The film’s success launched the acting careers of its cast: Chris Klein, Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Alyson Hannigan and Mena Suvari.

Klein says while shooting the comedy in 1998, he had no inkling that his character, Oz, would one day return to the bigscreen.

“I’m not sure any of us thought our characters would have returned even a year later,” he says. “I went back to college, that’s how unsure I was. None of us saw this (franchise) coming.”

In 2001, Universal reunited the cast for “American Pie 2,” followed by “American Wedding” in 2003. The two sequels grossed a combined total of just over $500 million worldwide. Between 2005 and 2009, four direct-to-DVD spinoffs were released under the brand umbrella but with different actors.

After a nine-year absence from theaters, Universal dusted off the franchise with “American Reunion” — the series’ fourth theatrical release.

Bowing in April, the film (which cost a reported $50 million) grossed more than $235 million worldwide.

“We always talked about getting everyone back and not just the main cast,” co-director Hayden Schlossberg said at the film’s premiere. “We wanted people like Chris Owen and Shannon Elizabeth back so that it felt like a real reunion.”

Klein credits well-developed characters, not gross-out antics, for the series’ success.

“Fans still embrace these characters after all these years,” he says. “When we were on tour with ‘Reunion’ it was amazing how many people wanted to know what happened to these characters. They were still wondering if Jim and Michelle’s relationship had survived. That’s magic.”

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