The Sequels Of Summer 2019: Which Franchises Are Alive And Which Ones Should Be Laid To Rest?

Sequels aren't a new invention, but more than a century after what was probably the very first one (Is the Elephant Still Dead?, 1904, Edison Studios) they've grown to become fairly reliable sources of profit. They frequently get a bad reputation even before release, but as with remakes and mother-in-laws they're rarely as terrible as some people suggest. 2019 has already seen the theatrical release of twenty-nine sequels, and a whopping twenty of them came out this summer.

That's twenty sequels opening across the four months from May 3rd through August 30th, and if that seems like a lot that's because it is. Studios and distributors may have thought there was safety in numbers, but even a cursory glance at the end of summer results reveals that sometimes the only sure things in life are Disney and John Wick. Quite a few of the sequels that don't fall under one of those umbrellas left Hollywood accountants sweating this summer for reasons that don't involve the heat.

We're taking a look at all of this summer's sequels, but since this is a conversation about winners and losers I'm going to knock out four right up front that barely even stepped into the ring. Non-English films are popping up more and more in theaters, and while that's great news it means that sometimes foreign language sequels hit domestic shores too. The odds are that you not only missed these four but have also never even heard of them. Student of the Year 2Chasing the Dragon 2: Wild Wild BunchThe White Storm II, and Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy earned roughly $1.7 million combined in the U.S. – we won't label them as losers seeing as this is a secondary market for them, but they're not exactly winners either.

Keep reading for a deeper look at the sixteen remaining sequels of summer 2019.

A Dog's Journey

You'd be forgiven for not knowing that 2017's big, furry hit, A Dog's Purpose, got a sequel this summer, and that's likely because no one was really talking about it. The same can't be said about the first film as its release was marred by a behind-the-scenes video showing trainers forcing a clearly frightened dog into water for a scene. Controversy swelled, lead voice actor Josh Gad was horrified, and the film went on to earn over $200 million worldwide. The dogs were treated far better and more comfortably on the followup film A Dog's Journey, Gad returned to voice Bailey, and it banked just shy of $68m globally. Assuming the budget was the same as the first ($22m), the sequel is still technically a winner, but why did it only manage less than a third of its predecessor? Clearly even bad press is better for a film than no press at all, but just as damaging to its box-office potential was the release just four months earlier of A Dog's Way Home. It's unrelated, but between the similar title and same writer as the other two it may have left people confused as to its place in the DCU (Doggie Cinematic Universe). Or maybe audiences have just grown tired of dogs?

Is this franchise thriving, living, or dead? Come on, audiences will never grow tired of dogs. The franchise is still profitable so I don't expect Universal Pictures to take it out behind the barn and shoot it anytime soon, but it might be a while before Bailey finds himself another bone. That said, writer W. Bruce Cameron – who has one of the greatest come-back stories ever seeing as he wrote 2007's Cook Off!, a comedy so unfunny it sat on a shelf for a full decade before being released, before hitting on this canine formula – already has another film in development called Dogs of Christmas.

Verdict: Living, but at risk of being taken to a farm upstate.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

Studio action movies, both the good ones and the bad, aren't always memorable for their action sequences. That seems silly, but it's true. Instead they rely on big stars, big set-pieces – these don't always equal action – and big personality. When the first John Wick came along in 2014 it was something of an eye-opener for audiences unfamiliar with action cinema beyond our shores as in addition to featuring personality, set-pieces, and a star it also delivers a fantastic blend of fight scenes, vehicular mayhem, and shootouts. 2017's sequel upped the game in every way, and this summer's Chapter 3 continues that trend delivering one hell of a stylish and thrilling ride. The audience has grown alongside the films meaning this most recent entry earned more than three times what the first managed.

Is this franchise thriving, living, or dead? Oh, it's most definitely thriving, and the only thing at risk of slowing it down is Keanu Reeves' age. He's 55 years old, and with a fourth chapter a couple years away he'll be pushing the limits of his body. While leads in other franchises – i.e. ones where the star isn't heavy into doing the action themselves – can work around it, Reeves' close up involvement is a big part of why the John Wick franchise is so beloved.

Verdict: Thriving in the Continental's penthouse apartment.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Warner Bros.'s MonsterVerse is now three films deep – take that Universal's Dark Universe! – with each of the films being a hit of varying size, but the box-office has been heading in the wrong direction. Godzilla (2014) remains the biggest moneymaker of the group domestically although Kong: Skull Island (2017) edged past it worldwide, but this third entry fell well below both. Earning $385 million on a $170m budget (before marketing) ain't great as WB is looking for far bigger payoffs for the amount of money the films cost to produce and market. So what went wrong? How do you stumble with a movie pitting giant monsters against each other? For one thing, the film's human characters get too much play with the bulk of it being plot points built on stupidity. That flies when you're making a fun romp, but these films are played fairly seriously making the human silliness stand out even more. That could have been forgivable had the monster action been up to snuff, but while the film delivers some gorgeous shots worthy of framing too much of the actual action is constrained by darkness and suspicious weather formations.

Is this franchise thriving, living, or dead? This film's results have probably left the franchise nearing life support, but the true test will be 2020's Godzilla vs. Kong. It's already well into production meaning WB had no time to stop it after King of the Monsters opened, but you can be assured they're holding off green-lighting whatever the fifth film in the franchise will be until next year.

Verdict: Living, but possibly heading back into hibernation.

Dark Phoenix

I know what you're thinking... when does Dark Phoenix open? But I'm here to tell you that it actually opened this summer to become the 12th highest grossing entry in the X-Men film franchise. I should mention that's out of twelve. Its global box-office capped out at $252 million which might have been vaguely respectable had the film not cost a reported $200m (plus marketing) to bring to theaters. How exactly does that happen in a world that loves superhero movies? The X-Men franchise already has diverging timelines, but maybe this alternate take on Jean Grey/Phoenix's shift towards darkness was just one new variation too many for audiences tired of trying to keep up. The film's also the lowest rated by both critics (23% on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences (B- per Cinemascore which is nuts seeing as even X-Men Origins: Wolverine managed a B+), so clearly this is a case of viewers simply not responding to what the filmmakers gave them.

Is this franchise thriving, living, or dead? This is a loaded question due as much to studio shenanigans as it is to the film's actual performance. All things being equal, 20th Century Fox would most likely press pause on the franchise and then simply reboot it in a few years because the X-Men are still a lucrative property, but the studio was recently eaten alive by Disney – the corporate behemoth that already pulls the strings at Marvel – meaning the more likely outcome is a few years hiatus and then a surprise post-credits scene in Captain Marvel 3 showing Brie Larson smirk as adamantium claws enter the frame. I'm saying Fox's franchise might be dead, but the X-Men will live on in other actors' bodies.

Verdict: Dead, but guaranteed to rise from the ashes.

The Secret Life of Pets 2

2016's The Secret Life of Pets took a simple but fantastic premise – what do our pets do when we're not at home? – and turned it into nearly $900 million at the worldwide box-office. A sequel was inevitable, but while its $413m take is very respectable it's also less than half its predecessor's earnings. The only direct competitor in theaters was Disney's live-action Aladdin reboot which opened two weeks earlier en route to becoming a $1 billion blockbuster, but repeat business on Disney's flying rug might have left fewer first-timers for the sequel. Those who did see it had fun, and the film's Cinemascore matches the first with an A-.

Is this franchise thriving, living, or dead? Even with a 50% drop in box-office the sequel is still a big success. Universal Pictures resisted the urge to up the budget from the first film – a relatively modest $80m – meaning a $400m gross still buys a lot of kitty litter. That said, the drop is pretty steep, so the franchise could honestly go either way. The studio may squeeze one more out or they may quit while they're ahead and move on to the next idea.

Verdict: Living a healthy life.

Men in Black International

The first Men in Black film came out twenty-two years ago... and that's nuts! It was followed five years later by a sequel and then ten years after that with a third film, and all three did out of this world business (to varying degrees). The fourth entry arrived after a seven year wait and swapped out the original leads (Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith) for a pair of fresh new faces (Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson), and audiences showed up in fewer numbers and with lesser enthusiasm. It earned $370 million less than the last film's $624m global haul, and audiences gave it a B on Cinemascore compared to the B+ earned by each of the previous entries. There are a few factors at play here starting with the long gap between sequels, but as the wait between parts two and three was longer I don't see that as the issue. F. Gary Gray took over as director from Barry Sonnenfeld who helmed all three of the originals, but Gray's no franchise curse – he also directed the second-highest grossing entry in the Fast and the Furious series. That leaves us with the cast change. Hemsworth and Thompson may be stars in the MCU, but neither has proven themselves capable of opening a picture outside of it. Also, if you're going to call your film "International" you should really move beyond native English speakers and cast the likes of Léa Seydoux and Song Kang-ho. I would have seen that movie ten times in theaters.

Is this franchise thriving, living, or dead? $253m worldwide on a $110m budget (plus marketing) is not great news, so the odds of a direct sequel here seem nil. The only chance this franchise has of continuing is if they bring both Jones and Smith back again, and while I wouldn't rule that out I also wouldn't hold my breath.

Verdict: Dead, and already dressed for its own funeral.

Shaft

The first Shaft film premiered in 1971 and quickly became a touchstone of sorts for the emerging blaxploitation sub-genre. It became a franchise starting with the two sequels that immediately followed before director John Singleton brought the character back in 2000's Shaft. That film did respectable business earning $100 million worldwide, but for whatever reason the series sat dormant for another nineteen years until Tim Story... turned it into a comedy? Look, it's a mildly entertaining, sophomoric romp that is neither good nor a fitting continuation for the character. The 2000 sequel made more in its opening weekend than this one did in its entire run, and it's due entirely to this tonal change. Samuel L. Jackson has fun as Shaft, and it's great seeing Richard Roundtree return as the elder Shaft, but the character is built for gritty, impactful confrontations, not the slapstick shenanigans we get here.

Is this franchise thriving, living, or dead? There's really nowhere to go after your $30m movie (plus marketing) earns just $21m at the box-office. It would be difficult to bring Jackson back in serious mode after this – again, he is having a blast cutting loose with the character here – so this bloodline is most likely kaput.

Verdict: Dead, at least until someone decides to reboot it again with a lead named Jane Shaft.

Toy Story 4

Was a fourth film necessary after the closure of Toy Story 3 (2010)? Is any film necessary? You might argue no, but with results like these it's easy to see why a studio would consider the movie to be a necessary one. Sure it's only the second-highest grossing of the franchise, but it still cracked $1 billion which ain't too shabby. Audiences once again ate it up as Pixar has the formula down and brings both heart and a fantastic voice cast along for the ride. The animation studio still focuses mostly on original fare, but their sequel game is on point (when it isn't called Cars).

Is this franchise thriving, living, or dead? Come on, this one was never in doubt. The franchise is as strong as its ever been, and while Pixar will no doubt deny plans for another sequel you just know they'll return to the well if and when the "need" arises. This film's introduction of even more toy characters mean a spin-off could be the way they go in the future – who among us wouldn't watch a Duke Caboom feature? – but don't count out a proper Toy Story 5 in the next decade.

Verdict: Forking thriving.

Annabelle Comes Home

Is there a greater success story in horror these days than the James Wan-iverse? I'm still a giddy defender of Death Sentence (2007) as being an underrated gem from the director, but he's found massive success with his films built in and around The Conjuring (2013). They're not all winners on the quality front – sorry The Curse of La Llorona (2019) – but they've all made bank off modest budgets and catchy chills. This latest entry continues that trend making over $222 million on a pre-marketing budget of $27m, and there's nothing scary about that. Wan-directed entries have been the most consistent so far, but writer/director Gary Dauberman succeeds in delivering some atmospheric scares and some welcome time with our favorite ghost-hunting couple, the Warrens.

Is this franchise thriving, living, or dead? The seven films in The Conjuring franchise have earned nearly $2 billion, and it's showing no sign of slowing down. The Conjuring 3 is already scheduled for 2020, and it's a guarantee that a sequel to The Nun (2018) is heading our way along with more dolls and curses. 

Verdict: Thriving, and destined for a crossover with Toy Story once Disney inevitably buys up WB.

The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith

Some sequels are inevitable, some are unexpected, and others are... on the other side of heaven, apparently. The 2001 original is memorable solely for the presence of Anne Hathaway as the protagonist's love interest and eventual wife, but she doesn't return for the sequel. (Our missionary instead takes up a position with an imposter.) The sequel only made $3 million less than the original, but the original made under $5m total so, yeah, it's a real good news/bad news situation. Faith-based films aren't typically high earners and are almost never costly to produce, so odds are this wasn't much of a losing investment.

Is this franchise thriving, living, or dead? Writer/director Mitch Davis is the man responsible for both films, and while the first is an adaptation of a book the second stems wholly from Davis' mind. Clearly he felt it was an important story worth revisiting eighteen years later, but with the minimal response to this one the odds seem slight he'd follow it up with more alliterative shenanigans.

Verdict: Dead, but a third film wouldn't be the first time something Jesus-related theoretically rose from the dead.

Spider-Man: Far from Home

Like Toy Story 4 above, a new MCU film is what's known as a sure thing. Spider-Man has come a long way since his days on the Electric Company, and his latest big screen adventure is his highest grossing excursion yet earning over $1.1 billion worldwide. The film hangs a little heavy on its Avengers: Endgame connection and Tony Stark's death – seriously, just give us a Spider-Man adventure – but audiences didn't mind as the film also delivered lots of fun and more screen time for Zendaya. As with the previous entry, Spider-Man: Homecoming, the film is just good fun with a focus on humor and action over heavy themes or events, and clearly that's appealing to the masses.

Is this franchise thriving, living, or dead? What if this was the last time we see little Tom Holland as Spider-Man?! The last time we see the web-slinger tearing up at a memory involving Iron-Man?! The last time he gets to call himself an Avenger?! The last time... we all know that's not really a concern right? Hollywood is a business, and Sony needs to play hardball with Disney just long enough to get the House of Mouse to pony up a proper financial split, and it's not a question of if – it's only a matter of when. Disney *needs* Spider-Man for their next phase of films, but Sony can keep on making their own and still make a ton of cash. They have the leverage and hopefully they stay strong enough to use it. Whichever way it goes, though, we'll definitely be seeing lots more of Spider-Man down the road. 

Verdict: Thriving, despite the current standoff between Sony and the Monopoly fans over at Disney.

I Got the Hook Up 2

Do you remember 1998's I Got the Hook Up? Me neither. The comedy earned $10 million in theaters with its tale of two street hustlers who find themselves targeted by both the police and the mob after acquiring some stolen cell phones, and now two decades later they're at it again. More specifically, a younger generation is at it again, but unfortunately for them the audience didn't get the message. Original stars Master P and Anthony Johnson return in supporting roles, but the biggest name in the credits is 'Tiny' Lister so make of that what you will.

Is this franchise thriving, living, or dead? It's unclear why anyone thought anyone else wanted this, and the results seem to confirm that they didn't. With only $250k at the box-office I'd wager the original film's fans didn't even realize the sequel exists, and while it might make a bit more on home video it won't be enough to justify a third go round.

Verdict: Dead signal.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

The Fast and the Furious franchise is an odd success story in that what started as modest hits about street racing exploded into some of the biggest action movies on the planet. I'm of the opinion that the series peaked at Fast Five (2011), but both the seventh and eighth entries grossed over $1 billion each – so what the hell do I know. This latest film less of a direct sequel and more of a spin-off focused on characters outside the franchise's previously established "family." Not so coincidentally, both of these outsiders are played by big action stars in their own right meaning while this spin-off feels connected to the series it could also very easily have been a wholly unrelated adventure. I'd go so far as to say its weakest parts are those that feel mandated by the F&F formula of forced heart and humor. Its box-office – just shy of $600 million on a $200m (plus marketing) budget – marks it as a success, but the margins are far tighter than Universal Pictures would have liked.

Is this franchise thriving, living, or dead? It's too soon to tell if we'll get more spin-offs or a direct sequel to this one, but Fast & Furious 9 and 10 are already dated for 2020 and 2021. Will they shift these new Hobbs & Shaw story threads back into the main fold or give them another shot? That's unclear, but the franchise as a whole won't be slowing down anytime soon. There are only forty-three movies (so far) that have grossed over $1b worldwide, and while over half belong to Disney, two are part of the Fast & Furious family. That's crazy, but it's also all the reason they need to keep making more.

Verdict: Living, unlike Han.

The Angry Birds Movie 2

2016's The Angry Birds Movie brought in a respectable $350 million  meaning more bird vs pig warfare on the big screen was inevitable, but just three years later the game turned movie franchise has crashed and burned. This sequel only cost $65m to produce, but while that's remarkably low for a CG animated film these days the box-office take of $77m means the film still lost a good chunk of change. The same voice talents returned and the film is by all accounts an improvement over the first, but the interest just wasn't there. Is the game being played less? It certainly seems to be talked about far less, but it's unclear if the disinterest in one medium would automatically transfer over to another.

Is this franchise thriving, living, or dead? There's no way this continues as a theatrical film franchise, but it could go the way of some other series and shift into direct to video sequels. It's unclear if there's even enough interest in that, though, and since the big name voice talents probably wouldn't follow it to video the odds diminish even further.

Verdict: Dead before it hit the ground.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged

Animal attack flicks rarely get sequels, but the exception to the rule seems to be shark attack movies. From Jaws to Open Water to Deep Blue Sea, they tend to be cheap enough follow-ups to justify getting back into the water again and again. 2017's 47 Meters Down earned nearly nine times its $5 million budget, and knowing a good thing when he sees it, director/co-writer Johannes Roberts returned this summer for more fishy shenanigans. Audiences were less enthused, though, and the film made less than half the original's take on double the budget. It's a shame as it's a fun enough little movie with screaming fish and some slightly claustrophobic cave dives.

Is this franchise thriving, living, or dead? The franchise has been on borrowed time since the first film's success seeing as it was originally meant to be a direct to DVD release. Copies were actually shipped to stores (under the title In the Deep) before ownership changed hands and the new distributor decided at the last minute to open it theatrically instead. The bet paid off handsomely, but if this franchise is going to continue its only safe harbor is coming full circle with cheaper movies released straight to DVD.

Verdict: Dead and retaining water.

Angel Has Fallen

The final sequel of summer 2019 is one most critics – and audiences, unfortunately – dismissed, and while I understand their hesitation I'm also a little saddened by it. Gerard Butler talking smack out the side of his mouth while stabbing and shooting bad guys in the head is just good wholesome entertainment, and the trilogy will go down as a fun little series of distinct (from each other) action pictures. Olympus Has Fallen (2013) is a highly entertaining siege movie, London Has Fallen (2016) is a bloody nod to the Cannon Films releases of the 80s, and the latest is a silly, sweet tale about family reunions and people who have the misfortune of exploding.

Is this franchise thriving, living, or dead? This one's still in theaters as I write this, but it looks like its box-office will only just be covering its budget meaning Butler's Secret Service agent can finally retire from the field to spend time with his family. Luckily, the film saw this coming and serves as a fitting finale to the character and franchise.

Verdict: Dead, because while Butler can stop assassins' bullets he's just no match for indifference.