Alarms should be sounding up and down the power corridors and in out of the executive suites of Hollywood’s big studios. Sequels–traditionally considered no-brainer big-money follow-ups to hits–have lately been doing a dying act at box offices across the country. Or did you miss last weekend’s news that the $165 million alien invasion flick Independence Day: Resurgence opened to rancid reviews and only $41.6 million in ticket sales?
What’s so bad about $41.6 million, you say? Consider: The first Independence Day made $50.2 million its opening weekend back in 1996, when movie tickets cost about half of what they now do. Sure, the sequel’s overseas gross was much rosier ($102 million), but taking into account the budget, marketing and promotion costs, only an optimist could view the movie’s performance as anything but a crash landing.
But why stop there? Other recent, critically bashed let’s-do-it-again underachievers include Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Kung Fu Panda 3, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Zoolander 2, Alice Through the Looking Glass, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, Woman in Black 2, Allegiant (installment three of the Divergent franchise) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
Of course, there have been exceptions. The Conjuring 2 has scared $242.9 million out of moviegoers and the original made $318 million. Marvel Studios’ Captain America: Civil War, released by Disney, just crossed $1.132 billion mark. Another of the Mouse House’s money machines, Finding Dory, opened with $136.2 million, the second-best weekend grosses ever for an animated film. It more recently hit $300 million, and may be on its way past a $1 billion haul, topping even Zootopia.
Beyond those, though, there’s no use denying that moviegoers’ infatuation with sequels has hit a wall. What’s up? Well, movie stars aren’t necessarily guaranteeing all that much anymore. Sure, Kristen Stewart didn’t follow-up Snow White and the Huntsman (worldwide take: $397 million) with The Huntsman: Winter’s War. But Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, and the great Charlize Theron re-upped, added Emily Blunt, and yet they barely drew flies to the much disliked sequel, which opened at only $19.4 million and could eventually lead to its releasing studio Universal having to kiss off somewhere between $30 to $40 million.
Sheer volume is also killing off sequels. Visual effects can be fine and dandy but, seriously, how many visually grabby new ways are there to decimate cities, national monuments or, hell, entire planets anymore? How much more disaster porn can be shoved down our gullets until we all just resist by staying the hell home? Besides, when a Game of Thrones episode like the epic ninth episode “Battle of the Bastards” delivers maximum emotional impact along with spectacle, carnage and CGI, how can a so-so X-Men or Independence Day possibly compete?
Another factor: The current average price of a movie ticket is $8.58—too high, especially when even the better movies become available on home screens too damn soon. 10 Cloverfield Lane hit theaters on March 11. By June 14 on home video, you could already check what critics were shouting about. So what could all this mean for the upcoming Jason Bourne, Star Trek Beyond, Ice Age: Collision Course, Underworld: Blood Wars, Bad Santa 2, Inferno and Mechanic: Resurrection?, among others?
It’s Hollywood, never a place on which you want to bet the farm. But isn’t there enough warning in the title of an upcoming Tom Cruise sequel, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back?