Franchises thrill fans and enrich studios. But in a fast-changing world, familiar comforts may be more harmful than we think
Coming not so shortly: a new helping of either Star Wars or Avatar for every Christmas between 2021 and 2027. Disneys latest release schedule also promises eight more Marvel comic-book adaptations by 2022. Meanwhile, this year will see the spawn of not just behemoths such as Avengers, X-Men, Frozen, Toy Story, Spider-Man, The Lego Movie and Star Wars, but also less obvious franchise-launchers such as Godzilla, Men in Black, Shaun the Sheep, Angry Birds, Kingsman, Zombieland, Shaft and even Rambo. Never before have film sequels been so many and so varied.
They are nothing new, of course. The first specimen, The Fall of a Nation, released in 1916, followed the infamous 1915 Birth of a Nation. But in their early days, sequels were mainly cheap B-pictures churned out to reuse sets, costumes and props. Now, each new movie in a series grows bigger and costlier. The budget of the super-sequel currently hogging our screens, Avengers: Endgame, was $356m, compared with $220m for Avengers Assemble.
The industrys eagerness to recycle is not hard to explain. As in the past, there can be cost savings, but revenue is a much bigger factor. Avengers: Endgame has become the fastest ever film to make $2bn, and has outstripped the lifetime take of the series original by more than $1bn. Of the all-time top 10 grossing films, six are now sequels all released in the last four years.
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