2016 has not been a good year for that old Hollywood favorite, the sequel. A small number of follow-ups have truly hit the mark, blowing critics and audiences away in the process. But there have been a much higher number of sequels struggling to do the same business as their predecessors.
Let's take a look at 21 high profile sequels released so far in 2016. We then compared their box office numbers with the previous entry in their respective series'. The results are interesting. There are many factors that go into determining whether a movie is a success or a failure. However, the sheer number of sequels that made substantially less money at the box office will make studio executives nervous.
We'll start our list with a few sequels that actually achieved their goal and did better business than their predecessor. Captain America: Civil War was a phenomenon. The highest grossing movie of year worldwide, it improved upon the gross of Captain America: The Winter Soldier by over $300 million.
Finding Dory, the sequel to the beloved Pixar animated classic Finding Nemo, also smashed it at the box office. It improved upon Nemo's domestic box office by over $130 million and edged past it's worldwide figure as well. It currently sits at 4th in the worldwide box office chart for 2016. We'll call that a resounding win.
The Conjuring 2 was also a victory for New Line Cinema. James Wan's crowd-pleasing horror made $318 million worldwide, narrowly beating out the first movie. It did make less domestically, but was still a cash cow for the studio. A spin-off starring the terrifying Nun from the film has been greenlit. It's actually the second spin-off from the franchise, after the demonic doll Annabelle got her own movie in 2014. This is also getting a follow-up. There will almost certainly be a third entry in the core Conjuring franchise as well, meaning it is now one of the safest bets in Hollywood.
Next we come to one of the most controversial movies of the year, Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. With a haul of $872 million, besting Man Of Steel by over $200 million, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was a runaway success for Warner Brothers. But, while it is definitely a profitable film, it didn't meet the lofty expectations of the studio. It failed to crack the $1 billion mark, something that the last two Christopher Nolan Dark Knight movies both accomplished. This means it is deemed a disappointment by the studio.
The only other sequels that improved were London Has Fallen, which gained worldwide, and The Purge: Election Year, which was the highest grossing of it's trilogy domestically.
Now we'll move onto the list of underperformers, which is lengthy.
The following movies made less money than their predecessors, but still did well enough that they are unlikely to be considered flops. X-Men: Apocalypse, Kung-Fu Panda 3, Independence Day: Resurgence and Now You See Me 2 all performed ably, if not spectacularly, around the world. We'd mark the report card for these films 'Could Do Better'.
Jason Bourne and Star Trek Beyond are still in the midst of their theatrical runs. Both have found decent audiences as well as solid reviews. Bourne might just be able to squeeze into the mid-range of it's franchise's numbers if it continues making money in the next few weeks, but Beyond seems unlikely to get anywhere near the worldwide totals of the previous two JJ Abrams Trek entries.
Next, these movies will be giving their studio executives sleepless nights. Ice Age: Collision Course, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows, The Huntsman: Winters War and The Divergent Series: Allegiant can only be considered flops. The first three failed to gross half the amount of their previous entries, and Allegiant was such a disappointment that Lionsgate is planning to remove the franchise from cinemas entirely. Rumor has it they are planning to do the final chapter as a television movie, which will then segue into a spin-off TV series.
How about the comedy sequels of 2016? Well, it's no laughing matter...
Ride Along 2, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising and Zoolander 2 all failed to improve upon the goodwill afforded by their successful first entries. Ride Along 2 performed best of the three, and considering the movie's budget was fairly low, a third entry might still be possible. The other two died a death at the box office, though.
Finally, Alice Through The Looking Glass is undoubtedly the biggest flop of the year so far. The first Johnny Depp/Tim Burton Alice In Wonderland made over $1 billion worldwide. The sequel debuted to minimal fanfare and failed to even crack $300 million. This was the latest in a string of underperformers for Depp. He'll be banking on the next Pirates Of The Caribbean to put his box office career back on track.
Why So Many Sequel Duds?
So, what are the reasons for this massive list of box office duds? Firstly, we'd say that 2016 has seen the release of far, far too many sequels. And unlike in some previous years, audiences have not followed the movies into theatres again.
Now, diminishing returns is often expected as more and more franchise entries are made. This box office attrition is not unusual in some cases. And some franchises have different markers for 'success', too. Some studios may be happy enough if their films are still profitable, even if less than before. This is especially true if their budgets are low enough to offset that lost box office. But we reckon there are too many outright flops to ignore this year. We would worry for the prospects of the likes of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Bridget Jones' Baby and Bad Santa 2, which are still to come in 2016.
Audience frustration with a lack of original ideas and an abundance of remakes is a common complaint amongst film fans. Perhaps this was the year that people's frustration reached out the idea of a sequel, too. After all, some of the most popular films of this year have been Zootopia, The Secret Life Of Pets, The Jungle Book, Deadpool and Suicide Squad. These were all original movies.
Well, unless you count The Jungle Book as a reboot. Or Deadpool as part of the X-Men franchise. Or Suicide Squad as part of the DC Extended Universe...
Oh, and also? A quick look at the list of upcoming 2017 releases includes over 30 sequels.
So what do you think? Any sequels surprise or disappoint you this summer?