For Hollywood movies, we all know that there is something called the ‘Blockbusters’. It is widely agreed that it started with ‘Jaws’ in the 70s. Since then, every summer, there will be those big popcorn movies that are targeted to make loads of money. I think that has been a well-oiled money making machine that most Hollywood studios is using to prosper. I think it is very smart and healthy that they put those blockbuster movies as tent poles on the calendar, the money that they make would be used to fund the smaller movies, art movies and developing new talents for future usages. That’s one of the reasons why Hollywood can maintain its edge throughout the years.
If ‘Jaws’ started the trend of blockbusters, I’m not sure which movie that started the trend of making sequels, or further developed into ‘trilogy’. Cos, ‘Jaws’ itself became a trilogy, ‘Star Wars’ became a trilogy. Personally, I’m not against sequel or trilogy. As long as they are good, though the fact is many sequels or trilogy suck, not only the studios would rather have not making them, we as audience wish we didn’t spend time to watch them neither. The concept of making sequels and trilogy are very logical. When you have a breakout movie, surely you want to further capitalize on it. If the main characters are not dead in the original, just make up a story and make a sequel or two to milk more money. As the marketing costs + effectiveness of sequels are usually lower, audiences are already familiar with the characters. You just need to add a little here and there, and here you go with another blockbusters (supposed to be). In some occasions, the actors/actresses would be signing for making sequels already, so the cost would be lower if they original has not even been shown yet, the box office figures of which would not be known as well. That’s to the power broker of the studios to squeeze better deals from the actors/actresses, especially, those less famous ones.
These days, almost all major Hollywood actors have a trilogy of some sort under their belt. For examples, Harrison Ford (Star Wars and Indiana Jones), Keanu Reeves (Matrix), Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible), Arnold (Terminator), Sly (Rocky, Rambo), Bruce Willis (Die Hard), Matt Damon (Ocean 11-13, Jason Bourne), Brad Pitt (Ocean 11-13), etc. They are have 1 or 2 trilogies or even quadrilogy. Usually, trilogy would only be made because they are profitable, though the quality of the sequels may not be that good. But, the color of Hollywood is always green. So, that’s only matter. Comparing with actors, actresses usually have less sequels. Come to think of it, I can only remember Siqourney Weaver and Neve Campbell have trilogies (Alien quadrilogy and Scream trilogy respectively) Mostly to do with the type of movies that featuring actresses as the major draws, cos genres pay an important part in make sequels.
Genres that usually can be made into sequels or trilogy are action, sci-fi, horror, animation, and comedies. There are not many Godfathers all these years. For actresses, there were not many action or sci-fi chick flicks, even if they do, usually those movies are usually not that big in box offices. Tomb Raider is an exception, but I heard that Angelina Jolie won’t be in the second sequel. If the action movie is led by actor, actress would usually be dispensable, Die Hard for example. For horrors, scream queens usually died in the movie, so they won’t be in sequels. For animation, there is no actor. So there only come to comedies, good comedy roles that can be made into sequels are rare. I can only think of two movies that have sequels but not yet to trilogy and not sure if they will ever going to be: Sandra Bullock’s Miss Congeniality, and Reese Witherspoon’s Legally Blond.
In the last decade or so, as the movie technology and special effect (FX) have greatly advanced. There have been a renew crop of blockbuster sequels or trilogies that have been doing very well. That’s the comic book heroes. Besides the well-known one like Spiderman and X-Men , the lessor known characters like Watchmen, Punisher, GhostRider were also made into movies as well due to the heavy demand by studios. The cost of licensing those comic book characters is extra cost for movie budget, but the marketing cost would be lowered with the existing fan bases of the characters in other media. Also, the studios would be less tripped by the paycheck of the main actors who could demand extraordinary amount. Cos, if Tobey Maguire cost too much for making a new Spiderman, studio would not hesitate to get another younger actor to play Peter Parker. On the contrary, if Bruce Willies doesn’t play John McClane in a new Die Hard, there will be no more Die Hard. I think that’s the case for Lethal Weapon 5.
Anyway, that’s just some thoughts that I have about Hollywood movies sequels and trilogy. I think I will talk more about other movie subjects in future.