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Making Copies: the movies that beget sequels

With ‘Hannibal’ a hit, studios are going back for seconds

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What a heady dish. The Anthony HopkinsJulianne Moore gorefest Hannibal has been such a lip-smacking success — a $58 million opening weekend, the third largest in history — that we may not have seen the last of Dr. Lecter.

Even before Hannibal began its assault on the $273 million worldwide gross of The Silence of the Lambs, producers Dino and Martha De Laurentiis had Silence scribe Ted Tally tapping out a new screenplay based on Red Dragon — the 1981 Thomas Harris novel that introduced the cannibal. (They own the rights to Dragon, on which Michael Mann’s 1986 film, Manhunter, was based.) Hopkins has expressed interest in this prequel, depending — but of course — on the script.

Given the struggle to make Hannibal, the Chianti has clearly gone to someone’s head. But the idea of a retread can be intoxicating — which is why Hannibal is just the beginning of a new sequel frenzy. In 2001, 11 are slated to hit theaters — from Rush Hour 2 to Jurassic Park 3, with major projects like The Matrix 2 and 3 ready to roll. Columbia Pictures alone has at least seven in various stages of development, including reprises of Charlie’s Angels, The Mask of Zorro, and Jumanji.

It’s a curious strategy given that of last year’s six sequels, only Tom Cruise‘s $215 million Mission: Impossible 2 outgrossed the original (by $34 million). Most followed The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, a yabba-dabba do-nothing that earned $35 million to its predecessor’s $130 million domestic take. Sequels often cost more — thanks to inflated star salaries — and earn a third less, according to Hollywood rule of thumb. But, notes Dan Marks, a VP for box office tracker ACNielsen, ”If a movie grossed $150 million, $100 million isn’t bad. It makes good business sense.”

Is there another Hannibal-size hit on the horizon? Here’s an update on five high-profile sequels and their prospects.

Anaconda 2

The campy monster movie earned a surprise $66 million domestically in 1997 — and a big fan in Columbia production head Peter Schlessel, who’s actively developing a follow-up for 2002. But will Jennifer Lopez slither back now that she makes $9 million per film? ”Let’s be real,” laughs a studio insider. (J. Lo’s rep is noncommittal.) Luckily, the snake doesn’t have an agent. Prognosis Mimic the low budget of Anaconda — and it could slink off with a pretty profit.

Men in Black 2

To entice Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones to redon Ray-Bans, Columbia is gambling on a complex deal: The stars, returning director Barry Sonnenfeld, and a producing team that includes Steven Spielberg will get a huge 50 percent (collectively) of the gross — to a certain amount, after which the studio stops sharing. (”It’s a really low number — we aren’t stupid,” swears a studio source.) Shooting on the film, rumored to involve an interplanetary war, is slated for June — F/X folk will start their magic if a strike intrudes. Yes, the math is risky for Columbia. But did we mention MIB made $588 million worldwide? Prognosis Back

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