I recently read an article published by Variety about the state of 2016’s box office. The past few weeks have had some of the softest summer openings for films in ages and of course the finger had to be pointed at something. With the extensive number of sequels that have come out so far this year the scapegoat is franchise fatigue. Considering the number of sequels that have been released so far (18 including spin-offs) and those yet to come out (19 including spin-offs) this year is packed with follow-ups. I wanted to take this point to look at why sequel saturation is an excuse and not an actual answer.
-Fool Me Once-
For me this is the major reason for two of the most recent box office disappointments. Last week’s Alice Through the Looking Glass opened at $26.9 million and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is looking at a $35.3 million debut this weekend. This is a sharp decline from the amount their predecessors made. 2010’s Alice in Wonderland made $116.1 million in it’s opening weekend while 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pulled in $65.6 million. In six years Alice’s gross dropped $89.2 million and in two years TMNT’s gross dropped $30.3 million. What caused this huge decline? I think it comes down to the fact that people were once excited for these franchises, but after seeing their initial offerings had no interest in a second helping. Even if these sequels are an improvement over the previous films (Out of the Shadows possibly, Through the Looking Glass not so much) they’ve already burnt up the audience’s good will on a lazy opening act.
This year we’ve already seen two additional films enter the X-Men franchise. Last February’s hit Deadpool and May’s X-Men: Apocalypse with two very different tones. Deadpool was a vulgar violent breath of R rated fresh air showing how this film universe can offer something new sixteen years after it’s debut. X-Men: Apocalypse on the other hand was a standard blockbuster in line with all the other X-Men films. Deadpool opened to a $132.4 million debut in February while Apocalypse made $65.8 million over Memorial Day weekend. The worst part, Apocalypse now has the second worse Rotten Tomato rating out of all the X-Men films. I caught Apocalypse last Monday and enjoyed it, but it made me wonder why it got hammered with such bad reviews. My only conclusion is that once Deadpool showed audiences the potential of a fun subversive film they went into Apocalypse with those expectations. Once they saw that Apocalypse took a step back and felt more in line with Days of Future Past audience excitement was deflated.
-Sequels Still Make Money-
To say that people are getting sick of sequels is complete nonsense when you look at how many are making bank. In 2015 alone out of the top ten highest grossing films seven of them were sequels, one was a prequel, one was based off a best selling novel, and one was an original idea. Of the top five films one grossed over $2 billion and four grossed over $1 billion. All of them were franchise films. And of course the biggest hit of the year so far is Captain America: Civil War which has grossed and impressive $1.13 billion. It doesn’t matter whether or not a film is a sequel or an original idea, so long as it tells a good story people will watch.
-A Bad Film is a Bad Film-
This right here is the main point of this article. As the saying goes, “You can’t polish a turd.” No matter what franchise a film is connected to doesn’t guarantee it will be a success. Sure it may make it easier for some films to make money (i.e Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the Star Wars prequels, and all Transformers sequels), but it by no means is foolproof. Robert Rodriguez had sequels to his hit films Sin City and Machete crash and burn at the box office. Why, because they failed to live up to their predecessors in terms of quality storytelling.
Let’s face it, sequels have been made to films for an extremely long time. Fun fact: The first sequel to a feature film (The Fall of a Nation a follow-up to Birth of a Nation) came out in 1916, so happy 100th birthday movie sequels. As usual what are your thoughts? Do you think sequels are getting out of hand considering this year has nearly forty getting released? Or will you watch them so long as they tell a captivating story?