Friday, December 23, 2011

What Happened to Sequels in 2011?

While on the train from Boston to go to my families for Christmas I watched The Hangover II.  I had not seen the second film in theaters.  I saw the first film three times in the movies.  The Hangover was this movie that came out of nowhere with no true major celebrities, and it was hilarious.  The script was off the wall crazy, chronicling a bachelor party gone wrong.  While on the train home my face never changed, and I rarely cracked a smile or laughed while watching the sequel.  The Hangover II took away the fun of the first film.  The film felt as though it were close to being a shot for shot remake of the first film just set in a different country, and centered around a different characters wedding.  Todd Phillips has turned his characters into caricatures that are just awful people.

In a year filled with with a continually struggling economy the movies have felt the impact, and sequels were hit hard.  Ironically The Hangover II while being critically panned was one of the highest grossing films of the year, and proved to be financially successful.  Domestically the film is the fourth highest grossing film of 2011 and has made 254 million dollars.  What is even more impressive is that this typically "American" film has made even more in in foreign markets grossing 327 million dollars.  The total gross for this film is 581 million dollars.  While this was a terrible film, this was a huge success at the box office.

Even though the film was a huge hit this raises a problem for future films in this series.  I would imagine both Warner Brothers (production company) and Todd Phillips will want to make another film making this a trilogy.  With the cost of movies going up audiences are paying attention to the quality of films more than ever.  People are not willing to pay 10 dollars at an actual theater to watch a bad film.  Sure there were enough people who went to see the Jack and Jill but that's another story.

This December 16th through 18th (2011) weekend helps to prove that sequels are losing traction.  Three major sequels opened up in theaters, two of the openings were major letdowns, while the third had a surprise opening and will be seen as a hit.

The number one movies at the box off was Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  The first film in the series had decent reviews, but divided audiences on the quality of the film.  The first film still had opening weekend of 62 million and eventually grossed 209 million (domestically).  The sequel opened at  a lower opening rate of about 35 percent.  The film opened at 39 million dollars.  For the film to be seen as a success during this crowded holiday season Holmes needed to match the opening of the first film.  As of right now the film is being outdone by Mission Impossible and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Holmes will most likely come in third this weekend and lose a lot of ground.  I hope Robert Downey Jr. starts to walk away from these series and starts to go back to acting in better smaller films.  Sherlock Holmes is a bankable series name but this film will not match the 209 million.

The number two movie at the box office this past weekend was Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.    Now it is no surprise that three of these films always get slammed by critics and viewers go to see them as more of a family outing.  The first film was released in 2007, and surprised many, grossing 217 million dollars domestically and 144 foreign.  The sequel or as they called it the squekquel grossed 219 million domestically and 223 foreign for a total of 443 million dollars.  I think many box office gurus expected this film to either be just as successful or if not a little more successful than its predecessor, but surprisingly it was not.  The film only had measly opening of 23 million, when it was expected to have double that.  With so many films opening this weak the Chipmunk films sliding back there is no way this film will make it to the theaters again.  I see straight to DVD in their future.

The third film at the box office was the smartest and the reason why some sequels succeed and others do not.  Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol opened in only 425 theaters with IMAX technology.  Watching this film on an IMAX screen was a truly awesome experience, and the film itself is pretty damn good!  When JJ Abrams took over producing the third film I knew this franchise was on the upswing.  Abrams knows how to  put together quality films and television, because he cares about the subject material.  With such great buzz about the IMAX experience fans are coming back to this series and are going to make this the number one film during the holiday weekend.

The truth of the matter is that quality matters (most of the time) and it can have an effect on the outcome of a films ticket receipts.  How do I explain the Transformers and Twilight box off numbers?  Easy.  Both film series have such avid fans that even if the films are bad they will show up, and they will show up several times to watch Megatron or Bella give birth to a gross vampire baby.  The same can be sad for the Harry Potter series.  The Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the highest grossing film of the year.  Fans will also turn against a series, like with comic book sequels.  Iron Man 2 did not do as well as it was expected to do because the film was a bit of a letdown.  Audiences are not always stupid.

The truth of the matter is that sequels will always be around, but I hope that companies see that they are not always as bankable as they seem to be.  Films like Bridesmaids (169 million), The Help (169 Million), Super 8 (127 million) and even Midnight in Paris (57 million) prove that there are success stories in original work.  I hope that studio executives see that they do not always to try and go for a brand, but that they can recognize that there is merit in working with original films.

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