Have Your Say: Is Sequelitis On The Wane?

Associate Editor, Features; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
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Have Your Say: Is Sequelitis On The Wane?
When writing gets tough, the tough turn to statistics. Well actually they don't but I do. 

Checking the latest US box office numbers I wondered what the total score for 2012 was so far, and what it had been for 2011. And I noticed something odd.

Looking at the US top-10 box office hits of 2011, to say that it is dominated by sequels is an understatement. "Harry Potter 7.2" was in the lead, followed by installments to "Transformers", "Twilight", "Fast a/t Furious", "Sherlock Holmes", "Hangover", "Pirates", "Mission: Impossible" and "Cars". The first non-sequel comes in at 10 and is "Thor", which can actually be considered part of an existing franchise despite being a 'first' film. 

Bizarrely, the list of sequels continues past the top 10 mark with "X-Men", "Kung-fu Panda" , "Captain America" (same franchise as "Thor"), "Planet o/t Apes"... 
Arguably the first true non-franchise film on the 2011 list is "The Help" on number 13.

Checking this with 2012, do we see the same huge domination by sequelitis? 
No we do not. On top so far (and unlikely to be de-throned this year) is "Avengers" which, while not a sequel, is of course the ultimate franchise film. And on number two we see "The Dark Knight Rises" which is most definitely a sequel. But look what happens next: "The Hunger Games", a reboot ("Spiderman"), "Brave", "Ted", "The Lorax", then a few sequels again ("Madagascar" and "MIB") and the top 10 ends with "Snow White and the Huntsman"

Seven of those aren't sequels. Five of them aren't even part of a franchise, or are hoped to be the first part. 

In a world where the investments on expensive films need to be recouped VERY quickly because of piracy and ever-shortening DVD-release windows, the attraction of sequels and franchises is obvious (followed by their slightly more risky brethren "reboot" and "remake"). Brand recognition is a big factor for people who aren't hardcore movie lovers but only want the occasional entertainment during their once-a-year visit to the multiplex. We often lament the difficulties in getting original content produced, marketed and distributed these days, and last year's top 10 list is a prime example of the state of the industry.

But what does this year's list tell us? is there a change brewing?

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andrewzAugust 27, 2012 7:28 AM

Speaking of statistics, where can I find the data on the ever-shortening DVD release window?

Ard VijnAugust 27, 2012 8:31 AM

That's more of a general observation, taken over years. The difference between a release in cinemas and one on VHS-DVD-BluRay would be at least 8 months in Europe, but nowadays it's a lot shorter (sidenote: I am happy though is that most of the time I do not have to wait six months anymore for US films to arrive in The Netherlands, but that's another story). When two years ago Tim Burton's "Alice" film got an even shorter DVD-release window than most films these days, local cinemas even called for a Disney boycott.

Nowadays we have the VOD-releases as well, and many arthouse films get simultaneously released on several platforms at the same time. And while that isn't the case with the big Hollywood blockbusters, I do get the impression producers are looking at ways to get their money back even quicker through all available channels.

Todd BrownAugust 27, 2012 10:36 AM

I'd say The Avengers is very clearly a sequel. It just happens to be a sequel to multiple films at the same time.

andrewzAugust 27, 2012 1:05 PM

"The ‘theatrical window’ is the number of days between a film’s official theatrical release and its release on DVD/video rental. Over the last 10 years, the size of the window in the UK has fallen significantly, from around from 27 weeks in May 1999 to an average of 17 weeks at the current time."


Source: http://www.cinemauk.org.uk/key-issues/32

hiroaki.jAugust 27, 2012 1:16 PM

Only two of the top ten are original films.

Ard VijnAugust 27, 2012 2:03 PM

What, you do not count films based on books?

Ard VijnAugust 27, 2012 2:04 PM

I am so sorry and I will never do it again. Happy?

Ard VijnAugust 27, 2012 2:07 PM

Yeah, that's what I meant with it being the ultimate franchise film. In my mind all the Avenger-related Marvel films are IRON MAN sequels anyway.

hiroaki.jAugust 27, 2012 6:38 PM

I thought just "Brave" and "Ted" weren't sequels, adaptations, or remakes. Maybe I read the list wrong (sometimes look at the site on a phone). It's just surprising to me that the number is so low.

hiroaki.jAugust 27, 2012 8:36 PM

I thought I had at one time seen one of those fun infographics charting the amount of sequels/remakes that became hits by year back to the 40's. But maybe I imagined it because my google fu is yielding jack today.

I'd personally like to see less reliance on established properties, but despite less sequels this year I can't help but think it might be the exception that proves the rule. :(

JFLAugust 28, 2012 6:05 AM

Brave is an original story, but marketing-vise it is a franchise. People are not seeing it for its story, but because of the brand name – Pixar. The Lorax and Hunger Games are adaptations of an already popular source so no wonder they made money and certainly can’t be in any way considered as original products. Ted is a problematic one, because it works on a franchise level being “the first motion picture from the creator of Family Guy” – as in the case of the “new Pixar” it was mainly the connection to an established name that made it a success (not to a star-filmmaker, but a name of a populart series). The question for the future is, whether Hollywood will tighten the connection with TV names and franchises, like is the case in Japan (blockbuster features acting as pilots for the launch of new TV series or even feature-length episodes of popular TV series). The only thing really to consider in the Top 10 so far for 2012 is the new Snow White since it shows the strength of teenage audience, who want some alternative to the High School Musical and Step Up crap. But of course it can also be seen as riding the Twilight wave of emo-styled fantasy. Either way this is the only film where one can argue that it was the original approach of the filmmakers which actually drew audiences to cinemas.

Ard VijnAugust 28, 2012 8:07 AM

I think it's a bit much to so easily dismiss any and all adaptations in this context. Frankly, in that case you'd also have to dismiss SNOW WHITE as that is based on a fairytale. I think LORAX diverted more from its source material than SNOW WHITE did.

JFLAugust 28, 2012 9:20 AM

The difference between Lorax and Snow White is in the target audience. Both sources are children’s books and Lorax is adapted as a kids/family movie (and hence can count with a double or even triple income because of parents who are forced to go and pay along with the kids). On the other hand Snow White is targeted to teenage audiences. I doubt anybody would list the original fairytale about Snow White or even the classic Disney animated feature as being popular or a cult/trend among today’s teenagers. This is also the difference to Hunger Games, where you're dealing with a current popular “cult” among target audiences and the producers were obviously trying to ride multiple waves (one being the source’s popularity, another being the demand for teenage “fantastic” sagas; not to mention the producer’s desire to come up with the next Twilight / Potter).