The Success and Failure of the Movie Sequel

When you think of movie sequels, does the word profit come to mind? When you begin to type into Google “why do sequels…”, the first word the site suggests to complete the sentence is “fail”, so for most people, the answer to that question is probably no.  Yet it generally depends on the franchise, as some sequels tend to succeed more than others. For example, Marvel movies Iron-Man-900x600have a big following and large fanbase that generates hundreds of thousands of box office revenue, which in turn allows for more sequels to be created. Sequels are established not only because of quality, but it also must consider the content that the original film has in order to invest in one or several more films. Marvel, for instance, has a multitude of characters and different worlds that make it easy to generate further films to explore the content. Other blockbuster hits like Titanic (1997) or Jaws (1975), which have concrete endings that arguably cannot go onto more films, were unsurprisingly flops in the box office as writers were grasping at straws to make the plot as interesting as their predecessors.

Why are production budgets for sequels larger than the originals? It could be because they are compensating for the lack of intriguing plots in favor of special effects. In many cases, these effects can either make or break a film, and many times it’s simply uncalled for to overwhelm the audience with it.Picture3

The chart above shows the total production budgets with sequels beating non-sequels by almost $50 million. Sequels, in many ways, have to be bigger and better in order to grab audience’s attention and gain profitability. When films rely more on trying to awe audiences with effects, it oftentimes just takes away from the film rather than adding to it.

Domestically, sequels gain less of a profit than they do internationally. One reasonPicture2 behind this is partially due to what was stated prior about how these films have a tendency to be action driven over plot driven, making the film easier for audiences abroad to understand. Many of the scenes focus more on fighting and action and produce less dialogue, prompting interest in audiences whose primary language is not English.  The chart on the right depicts the contrast in profitability for sequels between domestic and international box office. The green bar, which represents the international box office, dominates with a total of 64.36% profitability while domestic is stationed at 35.64%.

Based on the data collected, one can also determine which distributor has produced the most sequels the last nine years. Warner Bros. takes the lead with 20th Century Fox falling behind a close second.


Why does Warner Bros. dominate this category? For one, it harbors DC sequels such as Superman and Batman, both which contain several movie followings within its distributor. Similarly, the Harry Potter series was all produced under Warner Bros, a franchise which encompasses eight films in total. The chart also allows one to see which year had the most sequels produced by each distributor, and in Warner Bros.’ case, it was 2011. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Hangover Part II, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II are just a few notable sequels that happened within that year, and it makes it clear as to why it was Warner Bros.’ most successful thus far.  While sequels cost more money to produce and, for the most part, don’t succeed as well within the realm of the U.S, they will continue to be created and distributed for the sake of profitability.


Data Source:  Nash Information Services, LLC OpusData full extract from April 26, 2017


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