Posted on Thursday, July 7th, 2016 by Peter Sciretta
One of the big stories of this summer is what Hollywood is calling “the sequel slump.” The average sequel makes more than eight times the average original release, which explains why we have more of them than ever before. But the sequels of summer 2016 are failing to find audiences. Why aren’t movie theatergoers flocking to sequels as they have in the past? Let’s examine the possible reasons.
These Are Sequels No One Asked For or Wanted
It used to be that a movie had to have a fanbase to earn a sequel, but nowadays almost any movie that makes money at the box office can get one. Now You See Me, Snow White and The Huntsman and Alice in Wonderland are all movies that did very well theatrically, but were audiences craving sequels to these films? Summer 2016 is filled with sequels that no one asked for. Even films like Independence Day: Resurgence seem unexpected. Don’t get me wrong, 20 years ago I think people would have wanted a sequel, but today it feels like too late and unnecessary.
On the other side of this coin, one of this year’s better sequels, Finding Dory, could have also fallen into this category. But it has done quite well at the box office (it will beat Captain America: Civil War) and is well liked critically. While a Finding Nemo sequel was probably unexpected and unnecessary, the Pixar brand still holds weight for families and film geeks. And it probably helps that the film ended up being pretty good.
Are We Finally Suffering From Sequel Fatigue?
37 sequels will hit theaters this year, which is a record-setting figure that is more than double the number of sequels released a decade ago. Is it possible that there are too many sequels in this marketplace and people are hungry for more original stories? I wish this were the case but I’m too cynical to believe this to be true. The fact of the matter is that moviegoers are going to see a certain amount of movies this summer and they might flock to the big films that interest them, like Captain America: Civil War or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But adding more sequels to the release slate does not seem to result in additional ticket purchases.
People Don’t Care About These Characters
What if most people see a sequel because of character, not the story? Why do you want to see Captain America: Civil War? Is it because you care about this divide between the superhero teams or is it that you’re just really excited to see Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man take on Chris Evans as Captain America? When it comes to sequels, people aren’t attracted by brands or story, its the characters silly! This is a theory /Film managing editor Angie Han floated to me, and I think there is something to it.
People may have enjoyed Now You See Me but they had very little connection to the characters in that plot and twist-driven film? How about Alice in Wonderland? Did people see that to experience Tim Burton‘s crazy adaptation at a time when 3D was exciting and new? Or did they really fall in love with Johnny Depp‘s scary-looking Mad Hatter? Or how about Snow White and The Huntsman? I think you know the answer.
Why did Finding Dory sell so many more tickets than Alice Through The Looking Glass? The characters. People love the characters from Finding Nemo and wanted to go on another adventure with them.