Summer movie sequels equal profits for Hollywood studios
By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES, April 2 (Reuters) - Captain America, Spider-Man, the X-Men and Transformers are storming back into movie theaters, returning in sequels to save the world from mass destruction, while at the same time churning out profits for movie studios.
Hollywood will pack 13 sequels into theaters over the next 20 weeks. The parade begins on Friday, when Captain America dons his red-white-and-blue superhero suit for the U.S. debut of Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," and continues through summer, Hollywood's most lucrative season.
Studios generally don't have to spend as much to raise awareness of sequels months in advance, as they do with other big-budget films, executives say. And when sequels reach the big screen, ticket sales in foreign markets, which can account for up to 80 percent of a film's box office, often exceed their predecessors.
"When you can say, here's 'Avatar 2,' and you've got six billion people ready to see it, it doesn't take a lot of marketing to get them into the theater," said Jim Gianopulos, chairman and chief executive of Fox Filmed Entertainment. "It's a self-propelling marketing message in a very big world."
The first installment of 20th Century Fox's animated "Ice Age" series took in $207 million overseas in 2002. The fourth "Ice Age" from the studio owned by Twenty-First Century Fox earned $716 million at international box offices in 2012.
Sequels are hardly a new Hollywood phenomenon. But in recent years, as DVD sales crumbled, movie studios began to cut back on the numbers of films they produced to trim the risks.
Starting in 2008, they began to churn out more sequels and big-budget event films, turning away from riskier original films like independent dramas and romantic comedies.
This year's sequels include superhero films "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" from Sony Corp, Fox's "X-Men: Days of Future Past," and "Transformers: Age of Extinction" from Viacom Inc's Paramount; animated movies "Rio 2" from Fox and Dreamworks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon 2;" and Sony comedies "22 Jump Street" and "Think Like a Man Too." Continued...