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1 Chart Shows Why Hollywood Produces So Many Sequels

1 Chart Shows Why Hollywood Produces So Many Sequels


There's a reason Hollywood relies so heavily on sequels that it shows them the money.

Of the top 60 films at the box office since 2016 (excluding 2020, as most theaters were closed due to the pandemic), only five can be classified as true original titles, with sequels driving the most of the industry's highest-grossing films.

The analysis, provided to Yahoo Finance by box office analytics platform EntTelligence, highlights movie studios' predictable reliance on sequels, franchises and intellectual property known to drive movie sales. tickets.

“That's pretty much the standard narrative,” explained Boxoffice Pro chief analyst Shawn Robbins. “There are very few stories that haven't been told. It's all about reinventing yourself.”

Add to production pressures? The top 10 films, on average, accounted for about one in three tickets sold in a given year over the past decade, according to EntTelligence.

This means that the best films drive the business, essentially forcing Hollywood to bank on a “tried and true” content strategy rather than taking a chance on an original concept that might not work.

“It’s purely financial,” Travis Knox, a film producer and professor at Chapman University, told Yahoo Finance.

“The cost of marketing feature film releases is enormous, and as Hollywood's target audience avoids traditional ad-based television, it's more difficult to get the message out,” he continued. “Releasing a familiar film is seen as a safer bet.”

Knox added that studios have also become accustomed to “chasing after that first week,” explaining: “Movies now live or die on the first weekend, so making a sequel or something that already exists in the ether, whether it's a Marvel character or based on a best-selling book, will always make it a little easier to sell tickets from the studio's perspective. »

Of course, there are original titles that surprise on the upside.

Sony's “Anyone But You” and Universal's “M3GAN” are recent examples of high-performing titles at the box office, achieving worldwide totals of over $200 million and $180 million, respectively. (Of note, “Anyone But You” is still in theaters, so it's possible that its global success could increase even further.)

Both films benefited from strong marketing campaigns and bursts of discussion on social media; However, these totals, while impressive, fall far short of the top 10.

The recipe for “Barbie” success

Margot Robbie poses on the pink carpet for the film's world premiere Margot Robbie poses on the pink carpet for the film's world premiere

Margot Robbie poses on the pink carpet for the world premiere of the film “Barbie” in Los Angeles, July 9, 2023. “Barbie” has risen to the top of the box office in 2023. (Mike Blake/REUTERS) (Reuters/Reuters)

While originals have struggled to overcome sequels at the top of the box office food chain, some of the films that make the biggest splash are those that create original experiences based on characters people already know, like “Barbie.”

“'Barbie' took this whole idea of ​​basing a movie around a doll IP and turned it into a very meaningful narrative that resonated culturally,” Boxoffice Pro's Robbins told Yahoo Finance. “It exploited that familiarity, but it was also something the audience could relate to.”

According to EntTelligence, the Greta Gerwig-directed blockbuster was the first non-sequel film since 2003's “Finding Nemo” to sell the most tickets at the box office in a given year.

Biopics added to the bonanza of well-known intellectual property films with “Bob Marley: One Love” still growing after its debut on February 14. Meanwhile, Sam Mendes will direct four different films about the Beatles, each told from the point of view of a different member of the group. All four films are expected to be released in 2027.

Yet not all familiar stories work. Most recently, Marvel's “Madame Web” bombed in cinemas (and received a reception probably worse of the general public) as superhero fatigue permeates the industry.

“'Color Purple,' 'Shazam,' 'Haunted Mansion,' like them or not, they were all huge box office disappointments last year,” Knox added. “Why was 'Barbie' successful? In addition to being a real hit with audiences, it ran a brilliant marketing campaign that led to a ton of unexpected publicity. They managed to attract an audience that hated the toy line but found a movie that still spoke to them.”.

Knox said the film's new and different perspective also appealed to audiences.

“Consumers don’t want to be bored,” he explained. “They don't want to be put down. They want to see something new and exciting. It's the story of Barbie herself and the way it's been told that's so different.”

It also didn't hurt that the film boasted an A-list cast, which included Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. Star power, in particular, can often serve as a driving force for films across the board, although Knox emphasized that there is “no formula” when it comes to box office success .

“The most basic answer is that consumers want something that feels both fresh and familiar. That's an impossible scenario,” Robbins added. “It's not just about making a good film. It's not just about having a good cast and a great story. The pitch also has to be really effective, sometimes well in advance.”

Although Robbins and Knox both believe the sequel will continue to dominate, Robbins said this year could be a “stepping stone” for studios to take more risks at the box office.

“When we see films like Universal's 'The Fall Guy' “It’s not a typical movie that you would expect to start the summer,” he said. “If this movie does well, it could be a real game-changer.”

Alexandra Canal is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on @allie_canal, LinkedIn, and email her at [email protected].

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