The names are quite familiar to moviegoers: Harry, Optimus Prime and Edward. Each represents a movie franchise that has seen great success and is poised for a repeat. A record 27 movie sequels have or will be released during summer 2011. This trend represents an investment in a successful brand, according to a Kansas State University movie expert.
"I don't think this has any relationship to a lack of originality on the part of writers or moviemakers around the world," said Tanya Gonzalez, associate professor of English. "In fact, there are more films and books being made than ever because of artists' access to technology and online distribution or publishing outlets. I think it's a matter of what the mainstream big name media companies are investing in."
Hollywood has traditionally relied on popular literature and sequels for cinematic success, Gonzalez said. It's an effective way for big production companies to avoid taking chances, especially in uncertain economic times. Finding literature with a built-in audience that can also be serialized is a common practice. In certain instances, the same can be done for films without a literary accompaniment that were successful in their first release. Gonzalez said though this has been repeated countless times, it might be easier now than ever before.
"Moviemakers have always used sequels, but perhaps more so in times of financial insecurity," she said. "The movie industry continues to rely on the safety of sequels in order to stay afloat financially. That said, there have been some truly great independent films that draw a lot of attention and acclaim."
Consumers have shown a positive response to sequels with high numbers of ticket sales. But Gonzalez cautions against interpreting that as a sign that consumers are not interested in innovative storytelling.
"A unique, beautifully wrought film can truly move people, much like a really great novel, short story or poem," she said. "I think that is something for all of us to keep in mind."
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