Hollywood’s Love affair with repeating itself appears to be on the rocks. Doubts about the wisdom of recycling past hits first began to surface last Christmas, when Addams Family Values, Wayne’s World 2, and Sister Act 2 all failed to perform up to expectations. This spring’s spawn of sequels only added to the anxiety: The best of them were lucky to break even, while the worst-White Fang 2, Leprechaun 2-were barely noticed. If Hollywood can’t count on Parts 2, 3, and 4, what can it count on?
The rule of thumb is that a successful sequel should gross 60 percent of its predecessor’s tally. But since sequels are also more expensive to produce- returning talent exacts a higher price-that leaves little room for error. The parodistic Naked Gun 33 1/3, the season’s highest-grossing sequel, will earn $50 million, 57 percent of Naked Gun 2 1/2‘s $87 million. But given its hefty production cost, Major League II will be lucky to break even. And from the softhearted My Girl 2 to the violent Death Wish V, deja vu spelled instant flop. Most unnerving in studio boardrooms is this statistic: In 1991 and 1992, eight sequels each made more than $70 million. Since the beginning of 1993, not one has.
As a summer season top-heavy with sequels approaches, Hollywood is nervously crossing its fingers. Contemplating Beverly Hills Cop III, Paramount suits privately worry that Eddie Murphy is no longer a draw. And Columbia’s The Next Karate Kid‘s sex change-Ralph Macchio has been replaced by Hilary Swank-looks more like an act of desperation than a golden opportunity.
Some execs believe that video has undercut the once surefire appeal of a sequel. ”By the time you release the picture, you’re competing with videos of the original in the stores,” says one marketing chief. But he admits the real problem may be simpler, and for Hollywood, more dire: ”People are getting tired of seeing the same old thing redone again.”