June 13, 2010

Sequelitis

Movies aren't doing the kind of business they normally do lately.  This summer has seen a big drop off at the box office with Memorial Day weekend down a whopping 25 percent from last year while the month of May was down nearly twenty percent across the board.  Overall this summer, so far, has earned almost $150 million less then last summer.   These numbers are big enough for the studios to notice, and surely a quick look at their slate of films, fully populated by sequels, reboots and movies made out of video games, cartoons, comic books and television shows and they should be able to find the source of the viewer malaise.   At least, you would think so.   Despite the underwhelming performance of Iron Man 2 and the misfire of the superhero themed Kick-Ass (which was actually a good movie but it tanked nonetheless) Warner Bros. has hired a screenwriter for Green Lantern 2.   The first Green Lantern is currently lensing in New Orleans and won't even arrive in theatres for a year, but the studio - clearly ignoring a million warning signs suggesting that audiences are craving something new and original are already gearing up the sequel.  Remember the good old days when only movies that audiences really liked and did well at the box office got sequels?   Now we get shit like Ghost Rider 2 and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer because the studios would rather churn out a shitty sequel then develop a new project even if the original failed to ignite box office fire.

The Spider-Man trilogy petered out (pun intended) with a very unpopular and lackluster third installment.  The lesson to be learned, you would think, was that audiences quickly grew bored of this property because the studio was too keen to pump sequels quickly, not giving the audiences time to desire a new entry and not giving the filmmakers time to develop an exciting new entry.  But, of course, that's not what they gleamed from the experience at all.  Instead, they are developing a new Spider-Man series - already touted as a trilogy - that will simply take the same source material they just mined a few short years ago, re-cast it and present it in 3D.   Once upon a time, the film studios were run by artists and movies were  made by creative people with interesting stories to tell.  The transition from that to the new era of marketing teams making movies has been a sad development.  This past weekend, The A-Team, a lazy re-telling of the mostly forgotten 80's television series failed to capture anyones attention during a disappointing opening weekend at the box office.   But here's the good news: you can also ignore this movie in a comic-book series that was released to "create hype" for the movie and a line of A-Team toys that will no doubt be easy to find collecting dust on Wal-Mart shelves this December.  All of the energy put into brokering a deal with a burger joint to slap your movies logo on their drink containers; the tie-in comic books; the toy line and the Halloween costumes used to be spent simply coming up with great ideas for great movies.    Seems like a pretty good idea, no?  

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