Link Dump: Peakquel Edition

A rash of articles this week examine the lackluster performance of many recently released sequels, which is interesting speculation but perhaps feature a bit too much hand wringing. Movies can be "successful" because of many factors. We all like to think that quality has something to do with it, and it probably does, but not as much as we'd think. Luck undoubtedly plays a part. Marketing can get people into theaters and goose the numbers, but it generally doesn't get people to like the movie. Look, this isn't quantum physics, a movie's success isn't just the sum of metrics describing it. Plenty of movies make lots of money, but that doesn't mean people actually want to see more. Indeed, they might have hated the movie, such that when the inevitable sequel comes out, they stay away. Ultimately, on a long enough timeline, bad movies get their just desserts.
  • Hollywood's New Problem: Sequels Moviegoers Don't Want - The article that kicked off the discussion:
    "Sequels of late have fallen on rough times. The tried-and-true formulas and familiar characters and themes that are the cornerstone of the modern sequel have acted as a de facto life insurance policy against box-office failure," says box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "However, 2016 has proven to be a very tough battleground, and the landscape has been littered with a series of sequels that have come up short, and thus call into question the entire notion of the inherent appeal of non-original, franchise-based content."
    Which is funny, because don't we so often hear about original content being not so appealing? Indeed, this year hasn't seen a particularly great performance, even from quality films like The Nice Guys.
  • Have we finally reached peak sequel? asks Matt Singer, who would eventually discuss "peakquel" on twitter and turned the discussion towards "event" based movies:
    American movies in 2016 are all about creating events, movies so "important" that they can’t be missed (or, more specifically, that they can’t be put off until they show up on cable or streaming services). But how much of an event can something be if it's the sixth installment in a series that seemingly has no planned ending?

    ...But events are unique; that's what makes them events. Hollywood now tries to position so many sequels as events, that they've inadvertently diluted their primary selling point. When everything is an event, nothing is an event - and when a franchise has no end in sight each individual installment is inherently less unique, because there will always be more where that came from.
    This is quite true. One of the successful things about Captain America: Civil War was that the fate of the entire planet didn't really hinge on a giant laser beam into the sky, but rather a personal battle between two friends. Meanwhile, X-Men: Apocalypse feints towards the literal end of the world, and audiences mostly just yawn.
  • Maybe Audiences Want Sagas, Not Sequels - Devin Faraci has an interesting spin, but it basically just amounts to the need for a sequel to be good and worthwhile, not just a shameless retread. Still worth thinking about though:
    As Hollywood studios chase guaranteed box office they need to understand that audiences recognize when a movie has been made as a shitty cash grab or, in the case of Neighbors 2, they're cynical when it looks like it might have been a shitty cash grab. Audiences want to feel like a sequel has a reason to exist. On the other hand understanding that too much leads to a peculiar phenomenon where the first movie is just a set up for a trilogy or something, leaving audiences unsatisfied. The key is to create a complete movie experience with one eye on the future. That's the lesson nobody's taking from Marvel.
    Also worth noting that Marvel's source material is already serialized in nature. I think that's a key part of Superhero movie success, though it can often collapse in on itself when filmmakers become too ambitious and try to cram too much into one film. Marvel has done this from time to time, but seems to have largely escaped the normal fate that befalls such a film...
And that's all for now. Stay tuned for the sequel link dump next week. Or not.