Are moviegoers tiring of sequels?
By Carl DiOrio
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Hollywood still hopes to shake off early symptoms, but there is spreading concern that the summer box office will be plagued by a nasty case of sequelitis.
Conditions are ripe: Studios have planted 11 sequels or franchise reboots in the fertile May-August span, up from nine last summer and seven from the 2008 season. Those that have opened so far have underwhelmed, with seasonal box office off by a double-digit margin and studio executives beginning to feel woozy.
Most recently, Warner Bros.' "Sex and the City 2" was expected to outpace its 2008 predecessor and top the Memorial Day weekend. Instead, it lagged the original's bow dramatically and debuted with a tarnished bronze medal, trailing even Disney's disappointing "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time." (A would-be franchise starter, "Persia" will need outsize international contributions to reach profitability.)
DreamWorks Animation's "Shrek Forever After" finished first in the frame. But that offered limited relief, as the Paramount-distributed four-quel missed consensus forecasts for its opening by a nauseating $30 million. Reaction to the latest disappointments came swiftly.
"There very well could be some burnout with moviegoers, who are looking for something new and fresh," a top studio executive lamented Tuesday.
Not everything has been doom and gloom. Summer's first "tentpole" release (a film counted on, as a guaranteed box-office success, to support the rest of a studio's slate), Paramount's "Iron Man 2," soon should top $300 million after initially disappointing those hoping the Robert Downey Jr.-starring action feature would kick-start the all-important season with a record bow.
But the desultory outings of "Shrek Forever" and "Sex 2" have many seeing signs of franchise fatigue. "Watching the decline of 'Sex and the City 2' every day has really surprised us," another top industyite said. Continued...