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 training

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.

King of the monsters trailer final

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 TV spot

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.

Harrison Ford Secret Life of Pets 2

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.

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