I shudder to say this, but “The Smurfs 3” is probably only a matter of time. Worse, we’ve brought this madness on ourselves.
Now that the summer movie season is officially drawing to a close, pundits are all lining up to declare it as the year of the crashing blockbuster. The far bigger issue, however, is the fact that box office receipts prove that audiences love sequels a lot more than we say we do. We complain about the lack of original movies to hit the big screen, but when they do show up we consistently fail to go see them in theaters.
Admittedly, we also try to stay away from some of the worst sequels. “The Smurfs 2” came in third its opening weekend with a paltry $17.5 million, combined with an entirely unsurprised thumbs down from most critics. In the long run, however, the movie managed to rack up nearly $64 million in ticket sales as of Aug. 28. That’s only $5 million less than “2 Guns,” one of the movies that trounced “Smurfs” on opening weekend, and “Smurfs” did far better overseas.
The original action movie “2 Guns,” starring Denzel Washington and Mark Whalburg, received a 64 percent positive rating from professional movie critics on Rotton Tomatoes, a review-gathering website. “The Smurfs 2” received a 12 percent positive rating. But Hollywood pays attention to box office numbers, not reviews, and “The Smurfs 2” ended up earning more money. “Grown Ups 2,” the Adam Sandler-helmed sequel that received only a 7 percent positive rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, proved even more financially successful over the long term.
This isn’t to say that all sequels are bad. I loved “Iron Man 3,” “Star Trek Into Darkness” and “Despicable Me 2,” all of which proved to be some of the biggest box office successes of the summer. But when added to the success of “Fast and Furious 6,” another summer movie that saw huge returns, they send a neon-bright message to Hollywood that what we really want is to see characters we’ve already seen before.
Thankfully, there were also a handful of original movies that made it through the summer season with their heads held high. “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” topped the box office for three weeks over much splashier movies. The horror movie “The Conjuring” stormed its way into theaters with a first-place opening weekend finish, and by this point in the season has taken in over $220 million in foreign and domestic ticket sales. The action movie “The Heat” has made $209.5 million, the heist film “Now You See Me” has made $293 million, and Brad Pitt’s zombie extravaganza “World War Z” has made $526 million.
The thing is, only “The Conjuring” took the top spot its opening weekend. Both “The Heat” and “World War Z” were trounced by the prequel “Monsters University” their opening weekends, and “Now You See Me” was crushed by “Fast and the Furious 6.” The only reason any of these movies did well at the box office was because of their longevity, fueled by the people who went to see them even after the weekend buzz had faded. Word trickled out, friends got their friends interested, and people finally decided to take a chance on something they hadn’t seen before.
Unfortunately, far more people decided to play it safe with sequels – even “Fast and Furious 6,” one of the lowest earning of the big summer moneymakers, beat “World War Z” by a cool $286 million. "Lee Daniels' The Butler" was knocked out of the top spot by "Riddick," the third movie in a series.
We can complain about sequels online as much as we like, but it’s our wallets that Hollywood will be listening to.