‘Franchises rule’: Why this year’s top-grossing box-office hits are sequels

'Beverly Hills Cop 4'

Source: Netflix

In the middle of a promotional tour to talk up the fourth iteration of his Beverly Hills Cop franchise, Hollywood star and comedy legend Eddie Murphy had something else to spill.

He was in the throws of making a fifth Shrek movie, voicing Donkey just like he’s done since 2001 when the beloved ogre melted hearts all over the world.

“We started doing Shrek 4 or 5 months ago,” Murphy told Collider.

“I [have] recorded the first act, and we’ll be doing it this year, we’ll finish it up. Shrek is coming out, and Donkey’s gonna have his own movie.”

In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times last week, Murphy said he didn’t gravitate toward things that he thought were challenging.

“I want to do something I know works and something that I know I can be funny doing,” he says.

“First and foremost, I’m trying to be funny for my audience. You want to do stuff that you know is going to be funny for them.”

Returning as Axel Foley for a fourth time, he said the latest Beverly Hills Cop worked because it had an emotional hook, a great villain and the heavyweight producer who crafted the original, Jerry Bruckheimer, in 1984 had also returned.

“He understood it the most because it’s his movie, and it all came together,” Murphy said.

TMZ addressed the fifth iteration in a TV video chat: “Shrek is the easiest money guarantee … the last Shrek movie made $750 million”.

No doubt, it is the year of the sequel, with studios relying on the popularity of the franchise to fill the coffers.

According to Sydney’s Numero Box Office, Despicable Me 4 raked in $10.13 million, InsideOut 2 at $9.93 million and the third A Quiet Place: Day One came in with $3.52 million at the box office with results collated on July 11.

Deadpool 3 hits cinemas later this month, Beetlejuice 2 is there in September, followed by Joker 2 in October and Gladiator 2 in November.

“When you look at today’s film culture, it’s clear that franchises rule and sequels tend to make up for the vast majority of the world’s highest-grossing films, for better and worse,” says The Hollywood Reporter.

“Still, it’s no easy task to make a hit follow-up, especially if the first film is beloved.

“It’s even harder to make a sequel better than the original when the original is such an accomplishment in itself.”

Paul Hogan

Crocodile Dundee was a hit when it was released in 1986. Photo: Getty

‘Catching lightning in a bottle’

There are also plenty of well-documented sequels that go down in history as cynical cheap-money grabs with confusing, and mediocre storylines.

Crocodile Dundee, starring Paul Hogan as Mick Dundee and US actress, Linda Kozlowski, grossed $US328 million at the box office worldwide, off a budget of $US8.8 million.

By the time the third instalment hit cinemas – Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles in 2001 – it was a disaster, bringing in just under $40m.

Then there’s the Jaws sequels, where you know what’s going to happen, Flying High, Big Momma, Highlander, way too many Halloween sequels and the totally unwatchable third Robocop. 

“Sequels are always tricky to pull off, because replicating the success of a popular movie requires the filmmakers to catch lightning in a bottle for a second time,” says Screen Rant.

“It’s common for a sequel to be met with a negative reception.

“Audiences and critics judge them against the high bar set by the first movie.”

Back to the Future

Michael J Fox as Marty McFly and the Doc in Back to the Future … the original. Photo: AAP

As a rule, cinematic superstars tend to appear in more sequels than the average actor because franchises promise lucrative guaranteed paydays and nailed-on box office success, wrote the UK’s Far Out Magazine this month.

That includes Mission Impossible (Tom Cruise), John Wick (Keanu Reeves), all the Avengers movies (especially Robert Downey Jr) and the Fast and Furious (Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson) franchises.

For Michael J Fox, who was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease in 1991 at age 29, his role in the Back to the Future trilogy was seen as “perfectly timeless”.

“What started as a singular sci-fi film about time travel has since become a multimillion-dollar franchise with one of the most dedicated fandoms in history,” says one comic book website.

Fox loved the part.

“The great thing about doing this sequel is that I had an incredible experience doing the first film, and then four years later, the filmmakers say ‘C’mon, let’s do it again’,” he says on the film’s official website.

“It’s similar enough so that we’ve all relived that same pleasure for the second time, yet it’s just different enough so we feel we’re doing something new and interesting, and definitely creative.”

Harrison Ford, whose made more sequels that most of Hollywood over his 50-year career playing Han Solo (Star Wars), CIA analyst Jack Ryan, and Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, gives Esquire some insight into why he made five Indiana Jones movies.

And it wasn’t so much about the money.

“I wanted to know what happened to him [Jones] and how he handled it.”

Topics: Movies
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