‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2’ Disappoints: Does Hollywood Have a Sequel Problem?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of
Courtesy of Paramount

Hollywood is fighting off a nasty illness.

“Sequelitis,” the entertainment industry equivalent of the Zika virus, has gripped major studios. Its symptoms include sluggish box office, feverish critical take downs and disdainful social media reactions.

At least, that’s what analysts and executives are telling themselves after “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadowsbecame the latest sequel to disappoint. It follows a long line of follow-ups and spinoffs that flopped or failed to live up to their predecessors — a group of underachievers that includes “X-Men: Apocalypse,” “Alice Through the Looking Glass”  and “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.”


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Box Office: ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2’ Tops With $35.3 Million, ‘Popstar’ Flops

“Audiences are challenging us to make excellent movies,” said Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures, the studio behind “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” “The fact that it’s part of a franchise or sequel doesn’t let you off the hook. You need to raise the bar and make the story exciting, compelling and fun.”

If it’s true that audiences are rejecting franchises en masse, it undermines the financial underpinnings of the movie business and it means that major studios should brace for a punishing summer. After all, it’s not like the sequels are showing any signs of stopping.  Over the coming weeks, moviegoers will be treated to fresh installments in the “Ghostbusters,” “Independence Day,” “Finding Nemo,” “Star Trek,” “Jason Bourne” and “Ice Age” series. In fact, nearly every weekend this summer will offer up at least one sequel, reboot or spinoff.

There’s a financial reason for the pile-up. Franchises are the straw that stirs a studio’s drink. As the domestic theatrical business slows, the one area of growth is the foreign box office. To that end, sequels tend to travel, playing particularly well in markets such as China that have become a critical source of revenue.

Franchise films also lead to greater merchandising opportunities. Characters from sequels are more likely to pop up in ads for cars or fast food. They’re the inspiration for toy lines, t-shirts and theme park rides. Studios are small parts of sprawling media conglomerates. Their value isn’t measured in box office. They exist to create intellectual property that can pollinate the consumer products, television and other divisions of the Comcasts and Time Warners of the world.

Franchise mania isn’t new.  But it has intensified after the success that Disney enjoyed with its Marvel films. The interlocking superhero stories featuring the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and other costumed Avengers, have created a thirst for cinematic universe building. Every studio wants to be in the game. Even though the reception to “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” was mixed, Warner Bros. is plunging ahead with a half-dozen films based on DC Comics heroes. Its next installment, “Suicide Squad,” debuts in August. Not to be outdone, Universal has begun producing a series of films based on monsters such as the Mummy, the Invisible Man and Dracula that will see various creatures and freaks of nature interacting over the course of several sequels and standalone adventures. Given that Disney is the envy of its major studio rivals, it’s understandable it would inspire imitators. There’s a danger, of course. As studios go farther and farther down the intellectual property food chain, the cinematic universe construction boom could eventually bust.

Despite the sequel swan dive, it’s too early to declare that the movie business is living through a bubble. Many of the sequels that sputtered at the multiplexes have been artistically inferior. The latest “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” only received an anemic 37% “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, an improvement on the 22% rating for the first film, but hardly enough to guarantee a slot in the Criterion Collection. Other recent sequels fell short in the review department, with “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” “Zoolander 2,” “Ride Along 2,” “The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” “X-Men: Apocalypse” and “The Divergent Series: Insurgent” all suffering worse notices than the films that preceded them.

It’s not like audiences have rediscovered their love for movies without roman numerals affixed to them. “The Nice Guys” and “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” whiffed at the box office, while upcoming films such as “Warcraft,” “Tarzan” and “The BFG” face uphill battles this summer. They serve as a reminder of the risks that studios take when they try to launch original movies in the height of popcorn season. Original, itself, has become a neutered term, given that “Warcraft” is based on a popular video game and Tarzan has been swinging through the jungle in various incarnations since the dawn of movies.

Some of the problem with the current crop of sequels is that they are rush jobs, argues Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. Two years separated installments in the “Neighbors,” “X-Men,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “God’s Not Dead” and “Ride Along” series. That’s not enough of an absence for the heart to grow fonder, Bock believes.

“The incubation period needs to be longer,” he said. “Hollywood is not good at being patient, but maybe it needs to learn to wait a little longer, because these films are suffering under the weight of not being given enough time. “

Waiting certainly helped “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Jurassic World,” franchises that took a decade-long break and re-emerged stronger than ever. In those cases, parents who were weaned on tourist-eating dinosaurs and galactic warriors had come of age in the ensuing years. They wanted to share a formative moviegoing experience with their own children, creating hits that spanned generations.

That’s good news for “Ghostbusters” and “Independence Day: Resurgence,” both of which revive franchises that have been dormant for 20 years or more. Not everything benefits from a longer gestation, of course. Ben Stiller waited 15 years before reviving Derek Zoolander on screen, but critics feasted on “Zoolander 2” and the film collapsed at the box office. It doesn’t matter how beloved the first film in a franchise was, part two or three or six still needs to be good.

“A sequel rises or falls on its own merits,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore. “If a movie doesn’t deliver, it’s not going to create the same level of excitement and interest.”

Sequels that have outperformed previous film(s), since January 2015:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Jurassic World

Captain America: Civil War

Furious 7

Pitch Perfect 2


Hotel Transylvania 2

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Mad Max: Fury Road

Sequels that fell short of previous film in series:

X-Men: Apocalypse

Alice Through the Looking Glass


Kung Fu Panda 3

The Divergent films

The Hunger Games films

London Has Fallen

Magic Mike XXL

Zoolander 2

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

God’s Not Dead 2

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Barbershop: The Next Cut

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Ride Along 2

Ted 2

The Woman in Black 2

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Insidious: Chapter 3

Sinister 2

Taken 3

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

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  1. Pino says:

    You forgot Creed. it did better than the last Rocky film financially.

  2. Dude says:

    Is not sequel problem. Is letting writers and directors have freedom.

  3. Mark ONeill says:

    Hollywood has a writing problem. Sequels can be fun. But if the first movie is mediocre, which most of them are, then people are reluctant to see the weaker sequel.

    We need to get away from non-stop action, and get back to heartfelt stories. See Franco Chevalier on my web site.

  4. Shell says:

    There’s no one to blame in this except the audience. Stop going to see this crap and maybe, just maybe, the studios will get the message and stop making it. There shouldn’t be a discussion about TMNT2 because the first one should have been such a colossal flop that there was no desire to do a sequel. I’m sorry, but I can find something to do in my free time besides paying my hard-earned money to pad the pockets of studios, Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise and the like. There are comic book superhero movies planned out until 2020. You seen one, you’ve seen them all, yet people keep paying money to see them. They keep churning out this garbage because people are too stupid to stay away from the multiplexes. The biggest voice viewers have is their money.

  5. Ben says:

    Yeah, it is a not original property problem.
    The studios have steered away from creating original movies with a few important exceptions like Zootopia. Some of the most creative work is being done in animation.

  6. Bill Waters says:

    Hollywood has lost its ability to produce adult dramas and mysteries. All it does are cartoons, comic books characters and pure dismissive nonsense. The movies are effectively DEAD.

  7. Anon says:

    Hollywood has a good writing problem. Let’s just get straight to it. Maybe if you start respecting writer and making the job something glamorous, you’ll start attracting more good ones. Because, to be Frank, even the best actresses are a dime a dozen… But writers are something special. Yet, who really want to be one at the moment other than (for the most part) mediocre/charisma-less losers like Paul Feig who can’t make it as the former?! Pay those who are the very best right now like they are the best, and those talented people hidden in the woodworks will come .They exist. But right now it just doesn’t seem worth the effort… I mean, Jennifer Lawrence (who I totally adore and think is so talented!) gets almost 15 million for a side-role when top writers don’t even typically get paid half that much?! That’s absolutely insane and backwards. The pay between actors and writers should actually should be the opposite. And until that happens, with the exception of a few great talents who are willing to be treated like serfs, Hollywood is gonna get the writers they deserve… Aka people like Mindy Kaling and Paul Feig rather than more people like Dale Launer. I mean, why do actresses/actors tend to stay around forever. Why do top writers like Launer make a few million and just move on in life? Because all the effort that goes into writing an amazing script isn’t worth a lousy one million.

  8. BillUSA says:

    As far as I’m concerned, only two films in my lifetime equaled or surpassed their predecessors. They were “The Godfather II” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”, respectively. Another handful of sequels do service to their originals but I think it’s a case of the newness being gone for me. others may feel differently.

    The point being that the overkill in and of itself has been over-killed. As much as I appreciate the superheroes being brought to live action films, I don’t like anything beyond the original films. I’ll rent or buy them because I like continuity, but even then I’m spotty about the ones I eventually purchase.

    I feel that Marvel has done the best job of origin films and they transitioned very, very well in “Marvel’s Avengers” – an all-star superhero film that has not yet been surpassed. The “niche” characters who are getting the origin treatment are second-stringers in my view. I grew up digging Batman, Spiderman, Thor and Iron Man through the comic books I’d buy as a kid and they have been portrayed well enough for me.

    Finally, there are two things I can do without when it comes to sequels. One is the practice of adding another term to the title. I mean, c’mon, I wasn’t curious about “Terminator 2” because “Judgment day” was part of the title. And two, for the love of God, the reboot of a reboot of a reboot just absolutely cheapens the cinematic worth of the body of stories of a character. I’m referring to Spiderman and Batman. Of course Tim Burton did a horrendous job with the Caped Crusader.

  9. Brian Hannan says:

    The original thinking for sequels was that they would generate 60% of the box office of the original. Maybe the current trend is simply reverting to that. Also, this is not the first time that a sequels overload sank at the summer box office. The problem for studios in going down the sequels route is that they end up without the kind of A-list stars that non-sequels used to rely upon.

  10. Mitchell Doepker says:

    Your comparison of the issue with sequels to the Zika virus, is tasteless. I don’t know what the issue is because I stopped reading after that.

  11. Rudy Mario says:

    Surprised to see Rogue Nation as underperforming. Sure it did not make 1B but the previous ones did not either. Yes some titles like Zoolander 2 show studio desperation. It does not matter if it is a sequel or a reboot or a so called original, it needs to stand on its own merit. With frequently rising ticket prices and concession purchases, movie going is becoming a less frequent event at least in the US.

  12. Sam says:

    Does Hollywood have a sequel problem? No, Hollywood has a shitty movies problem.

  13. EricJ says:

    “Waiting certainly helped ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ and ‘Jurassic World,’ franchises that took a decade-long break”
    And that helped Terminator: Genisys…how, exactly? What benefitted Star Wars and Jurassic was that they were GOOD followups that took their audience love into account (which doesn’t bode well for Sony’s Ghostbusters), made by writers or directors who knew the appeals of the original films instead of “marketing” them.

    And this isn’t the first “Summer-geddon” we’ve had where the tentpoles and sequels dropped like flies.
    Execs were just as traumatized after the summers of ’01 and ’03, where blockbusters and sequels all failed while–sound familiar?–the one popular movie still standing was the feel-good CGI movie that appealed to all audiences with an original story.
    Zootopia, like Shrek 1 and Finding Nemo respectively, had an advantage on the other marketed sequels in that making an animated movie usually requires creating an original story from scratch, and in Disney/Pixar’s case, working together in committee to make one.
    And if there’s one problem that 10’s movies are clearly lining up as the Cause of It All, it’s studios’ fear of the old Tin-Pan-Alley days where a scriptwriter COULD come in with a story he thought up himself, and surprise everyone. The search for House Brands mean studios only want to make movies with franchise identification the audience know already, and…are surprised when the audience says “SEEN it!”

  14. harry georgatos says:

    How has MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE ROGUE NATION under-performed! Great reviews and box office hit with $650 million?

    • crossie says:

      And “Ghost Protocol” made $695 million; $650 is less than that, or, put another way, it’s “Rogue Nation”‘s performance came in under “Ghost Protocol”‘s, or, just cut out the extra words, it UNDERPERFORMED COMPARED TO PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS OF ITS FRANCHISE.

      The article is also clearly NOT comparing quality, merely box office, in the lists. A lot of the movies in the article and lists are clearly mediocre to crap, but being on a list of movies that didn’t make as much money as the previous installment of their franchise (i.e. a criteria that has nothing to actually do with the quality of the movie) is just trivia that may or may not help prove the point the article is making about sequel over-saturation.

    • millerfilm says:

      I think that the “M:I” series benefits from its source material: an episodic TV series. So, each “M:I” movie is a separate story, a separate adventure. And, the concept of a team tackling a different mission each time works, unlike other properties where they’re just making a sequel for the sake of making it.

      • EricJ says:

        Despite becoming just a vanity excuse for crazy Tom Cruise to indulge in extreme stunts (because Scientology makes him believe he really -can- do all the things Ethan Hunt can do), rather than the clockwork “team” concept of the original TV series, which the first ’96 Brian dePalma movie paid tribute to.
        Now, like Ninja Turtles, it’s just up there to be an official Paramount House-Brand label, to compete with Universal’s Bourne movies.

  15. millerfilm says:

    Duh! Hollywood has a sequel problem, a remake problem, and a reimagining problem. Audiences speak with their wallets, and even though too many have gone to too much have this junk so far, maybe they’re finally waking up to how useless these projects are.

  16. Carlos says:

    People dont like the way the Turtles look. They are 100% CGI. True turtle fans cant get invested in this iteration of TMNT.

    Everything looks like its CGI even the shots of NYC.

    • millerfilm says:

      Agreed. It’s like watching a Visual Effects Reel, where a VFX company is trying to show potential customers what they can do. Technically, it can be interesting. But, unless the effects are done by companies/people who have some real artistry, it’s just pixels flashing on the screen, with the same amount of heart and soul to them.

  17. Obie says:

    Sequels are not the problem, their lack of quality was.

  18. Harry says:

    Considering the mixed reviews, X-Men Apocalypse is doing very well as it passed 400 millions WW and is looking to do 600+ millions WW…not really disappointing also considering the competition, a bit of superhero fatigue and its lower budget than DOFP’s 200 mil…

  19. Nikki says:

    Sick of them. Stopped going to movies because of them. Crap like ninja turtles and finding dory? Children’s pablum by hack writers/directors? No thank you.

    Which is why it’s truly remarkable when a small film with great writing and characters comes along and breaks out. What a joy!

    • Bill says:

      Really? Dismissing a Pixar film like “Finding Dory” as “children’s pablum” shows you’ve not watched many, if any of the studio’s films.

      Far from being children’s films, they appeal to all audiences, quite strongly in fact.

  20. Guy says:

    Popstar chose a TERRIBLE cover (can’t tell it’s Sandberg whatsoever). I thought it was just a terrible drama about a pop star for months and I’m sure that’s what most people think without seeing the trailer.

    And the Good Guys is bombing because it’s supposed to be a comedy, but from the trailer everyone knows Crow and Gossling can’t do comedy.

    Zoolander 2 is the only good comedy sequel I’ve seen, but bs controversial reviews killed it.

    And to hell with the action hero sequel garbage. Terrible.

    • Cath says:

      The Nice Guys was a a very funny detective movie. Crowe and Gosling had a good comedic rapport.

      The biggest problem with sequels is that they become bloated. Whoever is creating them thinks that we need more and more of the same and when what we need is different. You can use the same characters and make an original story. It is just sloppiness on the part of the studios when they rush sequels without any real thought and think then they can make money. Tickets are too expensive for people to return to movies again and again unless the movie is special.

    • Chris says:

      Are you trolling? Zoolander 2 was unfunny garbage. The Nice Guys was hilarious.

  21. Joe Bagodoughnuts says:

    Wait… you mean studio exes are going to actually do their jobs and find original material to produce?!? They can’t just spoon feed the lowest common denominator to the public anymore?!? I hope this trend continues. F*ck George Lucas for ruining cinema (notice i said cinema)

  22. Coop says:

    More time between some sequels like ninja turtles would be smart…………

    • EricJ says:

      That’s THE problem with sequels that all the experts are searching for:
      Paramount wants a “House Brand”–just like Disney, Warner and Universal–and if they can’t make the Turtles their next identifiable Harry Potter, Avengers or Fast & Furious, they’ve already got Star Trek: Beyond in the pipe and their “Hasbro/Transformers linked universe” set for next year with Transformers 5.

      It’s not just “Audiences want to see it” that makes studios grind sequels into the ground, it’s studios that want -their- corporate name to be top-billing over the movie, by reducing their output to movies audiences marketably brand-name identify with the studio.
      Which, in Paramount’s case, means either Michael Bay, Star Trek, or Nickelodeon.

  23. kerzondax says:

    Well, the scripts in sequals so very often are terrible. Not always of course, but FREQUENTLY. It’s as though the rush is on and they think that just because it is a sequel that is all that is needed. You STILL need a compelling story. Yeah, there are exceptions to the rule but not many.

  24. alex says:

    jurassic world was awful

    • H.M.L. says:

      I’m not religious, but I’d say that “Jurassic World” was God awful. I was depressed to see the business and likes that it got.

    • Chris says:

      It was garbage. I don’t understand why it made so much money? I had no desire to watch it again.

  25. crossie says:

    Kind of a an awesome article to run the weekend a completely original movie crosses the billion dollar mark at the worldwide box office (even if it, as a Disney Animation Studios pic, also is part of a built in franchise).

  26. brady1987 says:

    First of all, ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’ was not a box-office disappointment. It has so far grossed $518 million worldwide and its domestic total of $143 million is not too far away from the $165 million that its predecessor made.

    Secondly, I’d like to address thes quote, “Some of the problem with the current crop of sequels is that they are rush jobs, argues Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. Two years separated installments in the “Neighbors,” “X-Men,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “God’s Not Dead” and “Ride Along” series. That’s not enough of an absence for the heart to grow fonder, Bock believes.”

    “The incubation period needs to be longer,” he said. “Hollywood is not good at being patient, but maybe it needs to learn to wait a little longer, because these films are suffering under the weight of not being given enough time. ”

    It was a mistake on Walden Media and Disney’s part to make audiences wait 2.5 years for a sequel to ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’. If ‘Prince Caspian’ had been released in December 2007 instead of May 2008, it would have made a lot more money. The film, however, was not very good and neither was Fox’s 2010 sequel, ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’.

    • EricJ says:

      Like Speed Racer, Prince Caspian was crushed between the May ’08 rhino-press of Iron Man and Indiana Jones, and only the few who saw the movie on opening weekend even knew it existed.
      Caspian was the weakest book of the series, and may have -needed- the Alice-like wild screenwriter improvisations to fill it out to feature length, but when the same screenwriters tried to do the -exact same- thing to the popular Dawn Treader–for almost no apparent reason except that they “could”–no one asked them to. There’s talk of Silver Chair getting new producers, and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (who ironically later fired up the Marvel movies) have not been asked to return.
      And then again, Dawn Treader also got the same cursed “December Weekend of Death” that sank Golden Compass, Princess & the Frog, and In the Heart of the Sea.

      • brady1987 says:

        ‘The Princess and the Frog’ didn’t bomb. It only turned a very small profit. It needed to make a worldwide total that 2.5 times its budget and it did that by $5 million. It also was successful on home video and Disney also made money through its merchandise.

    • crossie says:

      He didn’t say “Kung Fu Panda 3” was a disappointment, he said it didn’t make as much as “Kung Fu Panda 2”.

  27. EricJ says:

    Let’s take it case by case:
    – Alice, Huntsman: Never say “They like us, they like us!” and greenlight a sequel immediately after the big phenomenon opening weekend, especially during teen-girl March. Teens are fickle.
    – X-Men: Apocalypse: The year audiences finally started telling the difference between a Fox, Sony and Disney Marvel movie. (And Civil War also made us realize what Age of Ultron never got around to doing.)
    – Neighbors, Ted, Paul Blart: There has never been a popular guy-comedy sequel. If you want to scare someone, throw Hangover 2&3 and Hot Tub Time Machine 2 on the list as well.
    – Divergent, Hunger Games: Divergent, you’re not Twilight, you’re not Harry Potter, and you’re not even Hunger Games. Like Maze Runner, no one ASKED you to follow your “book cult” from first title to last, and we’re not even waiting for the obligatory “two-part finale” either.
    – London Has Fallen: The Big Ben/Eiffel Tower factor–If you need an action sequel, take it to London or Paris! (Because Americans don’t watch action movies anymore.)
    – Kung Fu Panda 3: Jeffrey Katzenberg never got the Shrek 6 he once announced, and he’s determined to get it from SOME franchise, even if he has to destroy/sell Dreamworks Animation to do it.
    – Zoolander, Wedding: Okay, does the star/director feel more “complete” now that they revisited the franchise they wanted to for years? Oh, good. Maybe we’ll rent the original, or it might be playing on Amazon.
    – Alvin: Road Chip: Sorry, Fox, looks like the “Christmas-week CGI family-hyped comedy” really IS dead, now that it’s been killed off by the Old-Fogey Comedy. Didn’t do much for Night at the Museum 3, either.
    – Insidious 3, Sinster 2, Conjuring 2: James Wan….Please stop it. In the name of humanity, please STOP turning every -one- horror into a linked industry, just because you think it “worked” for the first Saw and Paranormal Activity, and every other studio wants to hire you to turn their movies into linked franchises, too.
    – Barbershop, Ride Along: Do urban black audiences really -wait- for these movies, or do they just go to the first movies the week they open?

    It’s not “We hate sequels!”, it’s “Studios…was it really -that- great an idea to make them?”
    Which is going to become more and more of a million-dollar question now that studios want to reduce franchises to “Marvel-style” linked stories and spinoffs.
    Try to make a movie without the audience, and you’ll GET one without the audience.

  28. therealeverton says:

    Well X-Men was ALWAYS going to have a big problem living up to Days of Future Past. That was an “audience” event film as it combined the, more popular, original cast, with te prequel cast. ANY film,, however good, however well received, that just starred the 1st Class cast was going to have trouble being as “important” to casual “fans”.

    Remember 1st Class grossed “just” $353m, less than half the take of Days of Future Past. And the 2nd highest grossing X-Men film (prior to DOFP and Deadpool) was The Wolverine, with $414m. Sans Wolverine and the original cast, Apocalypse is in fact doing better than average for post 2006 X-Men films.

    • Harry says:

      Exactly, considering the mixed reviews X-Men Apocalypse is doing very well…it will probably get to 600+ millions WW…

  29. nobody important says:

    Keep in mind those original films that bombed, The Nice Guys and Popstar, are R-rated. R-rated films do not usually light up the marketplace anyways.

  30. agressively redundant says:

    Original film isn’t “dying” because people don’t want to see it. It’s suffering because mainstream audiences don’t want to see it. People are getting sick of these films. Why even bother going to the movies when there are so many other things to watch that might be better?

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