Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Article Alert - Are Sequels Statistically Worse?

Nerd Wallet recently released an interesting (and controversial) article that attempts to prove what many of us believe subjectively: movie sequels are almost always worse than their original.

The article makes use of Rotten Tomatoes data to show the drop in both critical and audience response to the subsequent offerings in a film franchise. A staggering number of sample franchises are used in the study - from Batman (not clear whether this is the Keaton or the Bale dark knight), Conan, Men in Black, and basically every slasher film ever made, since they're all part of a series. Take, for example, the Pirates of the Caribbean series. According to the data, the first four films earned, respectively, a 79%, 54%, 44%, and a 33% on the Tomato Meter. (Editor's note: I've seen the first two, and I heartily agree that two was far inferior. I actively avoided three and four.)

However, the study goes further, trying to also prove a direct correlation between the ratings, longevity of a franchise, and its earning potential. In the above Pirates of the Caribbean example, the first film earned $413,295,000 (domestic); the second spiked to $527,367,500, and the final two brought in, respectively, under $370M and under $250M. (Editor's note: boo hoo.) My guess is that a box office spike for the second film in a franchise is not an infrequent occurrence at all - it might even be common (cough Dark Knight cough).

But can we really draw this kind of connection? Sure, some franchises wear themselves out. They become more about money than product (I know, I know... they all are). Dark Knight Rises wasn't as good as Dark Knight, and it didn't earn as much, but there were special circumstances surrounding the second film in that series. The most recent Indiana Jones was, well, if you saw it, I don't need to say anything more. In neither of those instances, but in many franchise examples, the original talent, writer(s), and director leave the series, and new elements come on with a different approach. The X-Men trilogy is a perfect example. 

Still, can we say for sure that they will make less money (mind you, we're not really talking about losing money here)? They just announced that Avatar will will be a tetralogy. The Fast and Furious franchise is zooming ahead, with the sixth offering being the most successful at the box office of the bunch. 

What do you think? Is there truth in the numbers? Should I stop writing Leaving Las Vegas 2?