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Jim Gianopulos: Studios Need to Infuse Their Sequels With Fresh and Original Ideas

This column is part of Hollywood’s Broken Hollywood feature. For more execs and their opinions on the state of Hollywood, click here.

It’s a convenient trope to say Hollywood keeps doing sequels and repeating itself. I think it’s really easy to say we are doing the same old thing. But a good sequel is not the same old thing. If you do sequels badly, that’s the problem. I think the risk in sequels is for Hollywood to take the audiences for granted, to assume you only have to give them a little more. We as a studio are very careful to avoid that. We do that by introducing new filmmaker voices. We have to work hard to constantly advance the mythology of a property that people love. If you bring all the elements together, you’ll succeed.

When we look at greenlighting sequels, we ask a number of questions. How is it different? How does it advance the franchise? How does it provide something that the franchise’s new entrants can enjoy? Does it do justice to what came before it, rather than just repeat it? The reason sequels are made is that people liked what they saw before. I don’t think that makes them unoriginal. That makes them familiar and desirable, and you can only ruin them by failing to be original.

The most recent “X-Men” movie — “Days of Future Past” — was not only the most creative of the series, but also did the biggest box office worldwide of any of the movies. Similarly, “Planet of the Apes,” which had been done a number of times, and sometimes not well, when done properly with the right creative voice and story took the franchise to a different place. We’re fortunate to have five individual production divisions, each led by very seasoned executives who have their own voice and aesthetic.

We gave “X-Men” and “Planet of the Apes” substantial budgets to allow the filmmakers the creative freedom to realize their vision. In the case of “X-Men,” we were reuniting two sets of “X-Men” casts from “First Class” and from the earlier films. The nature of the story and the number of characters required a bigger budget. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” was told from the perspective of the apes, so it required more apes. The critical response and the audience response were greater than the fanbase prior to the movie. That’s the other benefit of a sequel: It will introduce a new audience that may have been aware of prior movies but hadn’t connected to them.

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