“Independence Day: Resurgence,” the follow up to the 1996 blockbuster, lands in theaters this weekend. And if you feel like everything at the cineplex lately has been a sequel, you’re not crazy.
There has already been 16 sequels released in theaters so far this year. Everything from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” to “Now You See Me 2” to “The Conjuring 2.”
In addition, there are quasi-sequels like “10 Cloverfield Lane” and sequels that take place in a bigger universe like “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Captain America: Civil War.”
It’s almost as if Hollywood is in a sequel bubble, much like the housing and tech bubbles that eventually popped.
It wasn’t always this way. When the original “Independence Day” opened in theaters 20 years ago, not one of the top 10 domestic films that year was a sequel.
And while sequels have always been a part of the film industry, the last few years have seen a surplus.
Since 2010, at least half of the top ten films each year have been sequels. Last year saw seven sequels in the top 10 including “Jurassic World” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
While some sequels like last weekend’s “Finding Dory” have been hits, there have been plenty like “The Divergent Series: Allegiant” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass” that have flopped.
“Sequels create long term revenue streams for studios, and have baked-in brand recognition,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore. “But sequels, when created for the sheer purpose of exploiting a concept that once performed well at the box office without regard for quality can taint the legacy of a great original brand.”
So with many sequels having lackluster performances at the box office, is Hollywood in a sequel bubble that’s about to burst? Not exactly, says Shawn Robbins, senior analyst at Boxoffice.com.
“Sequels will almost definitely continue to have a place in the market,” he said. “Just as the ‘binging’ has captured the economy of television in recent years, moviegoers like to be invested in ongoing storylines on the big screen. But that’s not an excuse for the industry to sacrifice original films at the expense of sequels.”
Robbins added that there’s an ecosystem in Hollywood where many sequels end up helping studios finance original films. “It behooves them to not just keep making sequels, but to take more calculated creative risks,” he said.
Projected for a roughly $50 million opening, it’s still up in the air whether Fox’s “Independence Day: Resurgence” will be the next sequel to fly or crash with audiences.
But the durability of the bubble may be tied to more than the performance of one movie, like this weekend’s “Independence Day.”
“The power to decide when or if the bubble bursts rests in the hands of those deciding which sequels to greenlight and which ones to keep on the shelf,” Robbins said.