You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

H’w’d: A sequel opportunity town

New crop of follow-ups outpaces originals

Here are three factoids worth pondering:

Sequels are now consistently outperforming their predecessors. Booming DVD sales are adding muscle to the franchises. And the films’ “brand names” appear to be so strong that studios increasingly seem willing to toss aside the key talent of the original.

Welcome to the brave new world of sequel-itis.

Remember when sequels were a sort of frivolous byproduct for the major studios? Well, now they’re the core product. And audiences had better get used to seeing Roman numerals decorate seemingly every other movie title.

So far this summer, “2 Fast 2 Furious,” “The Matrix Reloaded” and “X2: The X-Men United” have each outgrossed the original.

And, for many of the nine other sequels set to bow before Labor Day, prospects appear bright.

They had better be. Never before has Hollywood placed such a high-stakes bet on sequels. So far, the wager appears to be paying off — to the great relief of the studios.

Just a few years ago, the conventional wisdom said that a successful sequel would do about two-thirds as much biz as a franchise original.

But there has been a radical change in that thinking.

Now, Hollywood is banking on the second and third installments taking the franchise to new heights. The key reasons for that shift in thinking are DVDs and marketing.

A film’s afterlife on homevid can add millions to a film’s income, and the home version can whet the audience appetite for a follow-up.

The first “Austin Powers” movie, for example, earned a mere $53.9 million at the domestic box office; however, the second film’s homevid-fed opening weekend of $54.9 million surpassed the entire run of its predecessor.

In addition, studios are getting savvier with their marketing initiatives, eager to capitalize on established brands.

In a few rare cases, the success of the first film at the box office and in ancillaries makes the job of marketing easier. With properties like “Star Wars” or “Terminator,” sometimes merely a teaser logo introduced in theaters is enough to foment audience excitement.

But in most cases, execs are leaving nothing to chance. Since execs no longer view a second or third film with diminished hope, they’re putting considerable muscle and money behind these franchises.

Still, a sequel is hardly a slamdunk.

Studios are haunted by such pics as “Speed 2,” “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2” and “Babe: Pig in the City,” which proved that one misstep can kill a potentially long and lucrative franchise.

More recent backsliders include last year’s “Analyze That” and “Stuart Little 2” and the prior summer’s “Scary Movie 2.”

There are several other reasons for concern:

  • Marketing costs on sequels are just as high as on the original. Despite higher audience awareness for sequels, studios must identify bigger auds for the pricier followup films.

  • An inclination to emphasize production values can be both costly and taxing of crix and auds’ patience if the flash of the sequel supplants plot and substance.

  • Sony is shifting “Charlie’s Angels” from November to June and, though the buzz is good, there’s always a risk when a sequel bows in a different season than the first one. Sony’s “Stuart 2” suffered from moving from December to July.

  • And the biggest ballooning to production budgets comes from greatly inflated talent costs.

Topliner demands on “Spider-Man 2” so unnerved Sony execs they threatened to cast an alternate “Spidey” in the sequel should Tobey Maguire not change his tune. (He did.)

Universal went so far as to do without “Fast and Furious” co-star Vin Diesel in “2 Fast” to avoid big upfront and back-end contract demands. Yet the sequel’s production costs still swelled to $75 million from a mere $35 million on the original.

The studio is taking a similarly prudent tack with “American Wedding,” the third pic in its popular “American Pie” franchise slated for Aug. 1.

“Wedding” re-assembles enough cast members necessary to populate a story line in which two of the franchise regulars finally get hitched. So, Jason Biggs and Alyson Hannigan are back as the betrothed couple, but Chris Klein and Tara Reid missed out on “Wedding” invitations.

“American Pie 2” bowed in August 2001 with $45.1 million en route to a $145.1 million domestic run. That compared with 1999 original’s $18.7 million opening and total haul of $102.6 million.

U execs credit heavy focus on characters for the first sequel’s big success, and they hope auds will similarly care about thesps’ latest on-screen adventures in “Wedding.”

“Men in Black II” cost so much due to profit participation that its big B.O. still meant that its profit margins were considerably reduced.

Franchise success is never self-generating, Hollywood execs stress.

“It’s a complex equation that figures in determining whether the sequel is capable of capturing the same level of excitement as the original,” U vice chairman Marc Shmuger muses.

U’s “2 Fast” must further prove itself over subsequent weeks, but the street-rod sequel roared off the starting line with 25% more opening B.O. fuel than franchise progenitor “The Fast and the Furious.”

“X2” has done so well a third installment in the comix-inspired series is all but certain.

And the “Reloaded” booty has set the stage for “The Matrix Revolutions,” a third installment skedded for November. “Reloaded” and “Revolutions” were filmed at the same time.

Aside from the success of this summer’s trio, there’s another good reason for the optimism in Hollywood: Previously somnolent moviegoers are suddenly wide awake and storming movie theaters.

Through June 8, year-to-date grosses remain 2.5% behind the comparable portion of last year. But industrywide B.O. has marked big weekly upticks in three consecutive seshes, and total summer grosses are 5% ahead of last year, according to data from B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI.

“I believe you can get a momentum going, and there seems to be a big momentum right now,” EDI exec VP Dan Marks says. “The public gets onto a roll — they get movies on the mind.”

Distribs soon to hit theaters with their tentpole sequels are thusly aiming a bit higher than in the past. They include:

  • New Line’s “Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd” from New Line, unspooling this weekend (click here to see review);

  • Sony’s “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” June 27;

  • Warner Bros.’ “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” July 2;

  • MGM’s “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde,” set for July 2;

  • Sony’s “Bad Boys 2,” July 18;

  • Miramax/Dimension’s “Spy Kids 3D: Game Over,” July 25;

  • Paramount’s “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life,” July 25;

More Film

  • Indie Sales Acquires Martin Lund's Nordic

    Indie Sales Acquires Nordic Coming-Of-Age 'Psychobitch' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Paris-based company Indie Sales has acquired Martin Lund’s Norwegian coming-of-age drama “Psychobitch” which is headlined by Elli Rhiannon Müller Osbourne (“Utoya: July 22”). “Psychobitch” marks the first feature film of Martin Lund, who made his debut with “Twigson Ties the Knot,” a local box office hit, and followed up with “The Almost Man,” which won [...]

  • Studiocanal has sold Jean-Paul Gaultier's "Freak

    Jean-Paul Gaultier's 'Freak And Chic' Documentary Sells For Studiocanal (EXCLUSIVE)

    Underscoring the strength and scope of French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s legacy around the world, the documentary “Jean Paul Gaultier Freak And Chic,” which chronicles the making of Gaultier’s ongoing popular show in Paris, has been luring distributors in key markets. Sold by Studiocanal and produced by Capa, the documentary has already been picked [...]

  • Korea Box Office: 'MAL·MO·E' and 'Inside

    Korea Box Office: 'MAL·MO·E' and 'Inside Me' Remain on Top

    There was no change at the top of the Korean box office, as local titles “MAL·MO·E: The Secret Mission” and “Inside Me (a.k.a. The Dude in Me)” dominated a second weekend. Lotte’s “MAL·MO·E” earned $4.79 million from 618,000 admissions between Friday and Sunday for a total of $16.7 million from 2.23 million admissions after two [...]


    China Box Office: ‘Bumblebee’ Flies to $138 Million Total

    “Bumblebee” flew to its third weekend of dominance in China. But the Chinese box office remains in lackluster mode at the start of 2019. The spinoff of Paramount’s “Transformers” franchise earned $16.1 million in Chinese theaters between Friday and Sunday, according to data from exhibition and distribution consultancy Artisan Gateway. That was a 38% drop [...]

  • Mara Watkins Nabhaan Rizwan Steven Wouterlood

    Diverse Talents Pepper Variety's Fifth 10 Europeans to Watch List

    Variety has unveiled its fifth edition of 10 Europeans to Watch, spotlighting 10 rising talents from across the continent who are poised for breakthroughs in 2019. The selection includes emerging actors, directors, showrunners and cinematographers from six countries whose dynamic talents are being showcased on screens big and small, and on both sides of the camera. [...]

  • Glass Movie

    Box Office: 'Glass' Shines Overseas With $48.5 Million Weekend

    After autobots and aquatic kings have dominated foreign markets over the past few weeks, a different kind of hero has risen to the top of box office charts. M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is the new champ overseas, pulling in $48.5 million from international territories. The supernatural thriller, a sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2016’s “Split,” debuted [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    'Roma' and 'The Favourite' Lead London Critics' Circle Winners

    After ruling the U.S. critics’ award circuit, “Roma” continued its dominance on the other side of the pond, as the London Film Critics’ Circle announced its winners tonight. A week after landing seven BAFTA nominations, Alfonso Cuarón’s Mexico City memory piece landed film of the year and director of the year honors from the group [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content