|Entertainment is no different than any other industry. Best practices demand analyzing the reasons behind any successes and then duplicating them. Sequels are Hollywood’s way of building the next product/version/model that is slightly different from, but based closely on the original. According to the Hollywood Reporter magazine, “2005 was the Year of the Slump, 2006 was the Year of the Comeback, and now get ready for the Year of the Sequel.”
Thirteen movie releases this year are seconds, thirds and fourths, and in one case, a fifth. It begins with “Are We Done Yet?” a family-friendly comedy released on April 3rd, starring rapper/song writer, Ice Cube. Ice has come a long way from his 1980’s band, N.W.A. and songs like “F*** the Police”, “Gangsta Gangsta” and “Express Yourself”. His film debut in 1991 was the R-rated “Boyz n the Hood.” Ice attributes his transformation to his 1992 marriage to wife, Kim Jackson and their four children. His first Dove-approved movie was the prequel “Are We There Yet?” a box office hit in 2005.
Marvel Comics has provided super-heroes for many hit movies. One such sci-fi action flick, “Fantastic Four” did $329 million in 2005; reason enough for Twentieth Century Fox to produce the sequel “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” which is due out on June 15th. The first installment contained language too harsh for Dove’s approval. We’ll have to wait and see how the “Silver Surfer” fares.
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“Evan Almighty” is a comedy sequel to “Bruce Almighty” and stars Steve Carell as Evan, who is told by God (Morgan Freeman) to build an ark in preparation for a great flood. (Sound familiar?) Although “Bruce” was too over-the-top for a Dove Seal, we have reason to believe that “Evan” will be a kinder, gentler picture.
“Sin City” (R-rated | 2005) from Dimension Films, starring Bruce Willis, and Universal’s “Bean” (PG-13 | 1997) starring British comic, Rowan Atkinson, are unlikely to produce family-friendly sequels. “Sin City II” and “Mr. Bean’s Holiday,” both not yet rated, are scheduled for release later this year.
The saying, “good things come in threes” has been around a long time. Consider: small/medium/large, past/present/future, Tic-Tac-Toe. In baseball: it’s three strikes, three bases, three outfielders. In language: it’s et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, or yada, yada, yada. In Christianity: it’s the Trinity. In literature, music and movies: it’s the trilogy.
The theatrical schedule for the rest of the year is loaded with threes. In the month of May alone, “triquels” of three major tent poles (trade talk for blockbusters) are due at a theater near you: “Spider Man 3,” May 4th; “Shrek the Third,” May 18th and “Pirates of The Caribbean: At World’s End” May 24th. Both earlier episodes of Paramount Pictures’ “Shrek” and “Spider Man” from Sony/Columbia were awarded the Dove Family-Approved Seal for audiences over age 12. The original “Pirates of the Caribbean” from Walt Disney Pictures was also approved for the same audience. However, “Dead Man’s Chest” contained a bit more violence and language than Dove’s criteria allows. Hopefully, “The World’s End” will have some smoother edges than “Dead Man’s Chest.”
Two other trilogies due out later this year are from the well-known “Bourne” and “Ocean’s” franchises. Universal Pictures’ “Bourne Ultimatum” is the third episode in the life of secret agent, Jason Bourne played by Matt Damon. Warner Bros.’ “Ocean’s 13” starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon is the third installment of a remake of the original 1960 movie, “Ocean’s Eleven” which starred Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. members of the famous Rat Pack. Apparently, New Line Cinema feels audiences are ready for another Jackie Chan action/comedy. After all, the first two installments grossed $245 million and $329 million respectively. So “Rush Hour 3” is currently in production. None of the previous episodes of these upcoming movies carries the Dove Seal.
If success is based on revenues alone, who can fault Warner Bros. for sticking with a franchise that hit the jackpot with average box office grosses in the $800–900 million range four times? The fifth and sixth episodes of the increasingly violent and bewitching fantasy series “Harry Potter” are scheduled for release July 13, 2007 (“Order of the Phoenix”) and November of 2008 (“The Half-blood Prince”).
The adage “if one is good, more is better” doesn’t always apply. It’s not uncommon for producers and directors of successful movie franchises to push the envelope with their sequels. Taking your family to a movie unprepared is risky. Once a child is exposed to inappropriate or traumatic behavior in a movie, it’s too late to “un-ring that bell.” Checking with someone you trust who has seen a movie before you venture into the theater will avoid some costly surprises.
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