| LOS ANGELES, April 2
LOS ANGELES, April 2 Captain America,
Spider-Man, the X-Men and Transformers are storming back into
movie theaters, returning in sequels to save the world from mass
destruction, while at the same time churning out profits for
Hollywood will pack 13 sequels into theaters over the next
20 weeks. The parade begins on Friday, when Captain America dons
his red-white-and-blue superhero suit for the U.S. debut of
Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," and continues
through summer, Hollywood's most lucrative season.
Studios generally don't have to spend as much to raise
awareness of sequels months in advance, as they do with other
big-budget films, executives say. And when sequels reach the big
screen, ticket sales in foreign markets, which can account for
up to 80 percent of a film's box office, often exceed their
"When you can say, here's 'Avatar 2,' and you've got six
billion people ready to see it, it doesn't take a lot of
marketing to get them into the theater," said Jim Gianopulos,
chairman and chief executive of Fox Filmed Entertainment. "It's
a self-propelling marketing message in a very big world."
The first installment of 20th Century Fox's animated "Ice
Age" series took in $207 million overseas in 2002. The fourth
"Ice Age" from the studio owned by Twenty-First Century Fox
earned $716 million at international box offices in
Sequels are hardly a new Hollywood phenomenon. But in recent
years, as DVD sales crumbled, movie studios began to cut back on
the numbers of films they produced to trim the risks.
Starting in 2008, they began to churn out more sequels and
big-budget event films, turning away from riskier original films
like independent dramas and romantic comedies.
This year's sequels include superhero films "The Amazing
Spider-Man 2" from Sony Corp, Fox's "X-Men: Days of
Future Past," and "Transformers: Age of Extinction" from Viacom
Inc's Paramount; animated movies "Rio 2" from Fox and
Dreamworks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon 2;" and
Sony comedies "22 Jump Street" and "Think Like a Man Too."
What mostly drives the studio top brass is that audiences
keep buying tickets for sequels. In 2013, nine of the top 12
films in the U.S. and Canada were sequels or prequels, including
Marvel's "Iron Man 3" and Lions Gate's "The Hunger Games:
Catching Fire." Those films generated $2.6 billion in domestic
ticket sales, nearly one-quarter of the year's $10.9 billion
total, and another $4.5 billion worldwide.
That shift away from riskier films has helped studios
increase or stabilize their profits, said Janney Montgomery
Scott analyst Tony Wible.
Operating margins at Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros.,
the studio behind the "Harry Potter" franchise and "The Dark
Knight" Batman series, hovered around 7 percent in 2007 and
2008, Wible said, before rising to about 10 percent for each of
the next five years.
At Walt Disney Co, the focus is on a smaller number
of films with the potential to produce sequels, drive toy sales
and inspire theme-park rides.
In a typical year, Disney is aiming to release one film each
from Pixar, Disney Animation, and "Star Wars" producer
Lucasfilm; two from Marvel, and four to six from its Disney live
action division, said Alan Horn, chairman of The Walt Disney
Studios. "We choose our sequels carefully," Horn said. "If we
have a picture that has earned a right to have a sequel, it's
because the audiences loved it."
Next year's crop of sequels may set even bigger records.
Studios are already planning to release new installments of some
of the biggest films of all time, including "Star Wars,"
"Jurassic Park" and "Marvel's The Avengers."
The rash of sequels has prompted even filmmakers to make fun
of their world. In the opening number for "Muppets Most Wanted,"
Disney's sequel to its 2011 "The Muppets" movie, the furry
puppets break into a song called "We're Doing a Sequel."
"That's what we do in Hollywood," the puppets sing, "and
everybody knows that the sequel's never quite as good."
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Ronald Grover and