Half of the top 10 films at the 2016 box office consist of sequels, which is distinctive proof that audiences still have a hankering for them. But it has been far from plain sailing for follow-ups since the start of the year. Last week Independence Day: Resurgence joined Now You See Me 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Alice Through The Looking Glass, X-Men: Apocalypse, The Huntsman: Winter's War, Barbershop: The Next Cut, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, God's Not Dead 2, Allegiant, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Zoolander 2, Kung Fu Panda 3, and Ride Along 2 as yet another sequel that failed to eclipse the gross of its predecessor. That's a LENGTHY list.
Since the splurge of superhero movies at the turn of the millennium showed studios that sequels were the easiest and most profitable way to make heaps of cash quickly, they've turned sequels out in their droves. Especially in recent years, where the continued success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has convinced them to go for broke with origin stories that they could then expand into huge franchises if need be. But even if these first films turn a profit, that doesn't mean that a sequel should instantly be green-lit.
Yet, they still keep coming. And at this point there are just so many in theaters (or on the way) that it's tiring to see the same labored promotional campaigns for the same lackluster, predictable follow-ups. Audiences want some of these, but not them all. In order for this to be accomplished studios need to thoroughly ask if their sequel is warranted. To help, here are 7 questions to guide them through this process.
1) Do People Actually Want This Movie?
Honestly, did we need Now You See Me 2? Sure, the original was flippant fun, but it was also instantly forgettable -- despite the fact that it starred Mark Ruffalo. Plus, it benefitted from being released during a rather lean period in the summer of 2013, as it came in between The Hangover 3 and This Is The End/Man Of Steel's weekends, while its main rivals for box office supremacy in this frame, The Internship and After Earth, both flopped. These factors weren't taken into account, though. All Summit Entertainment saw was that it had grossed $351.7 million from just a $75 million budget. Like a dog that nervously catches its tail, they snapped. They ordered a sequel without really considering the reasons why the original was successful, or if people cared about another.
But to focus on Now You See Me 2 is harsh, because the same can be said for Turtles 2, Hunstman 2, and Allegiant. The originals were lucky that they made so much money, but, because it's the norm, their studios followed the path to the sequel, just assuming audiences would follow. They didn't. Rather than lazily making sequels, they should instead look to make similar, original content that places the stars of these films into different but familiar circumstances. But that would be too complicated and long a process for studios to construct.