Summer's Studio Smackdown: From 'Men in Black 3' to 'Prometheus,' Which Franchises Will Get Another Chapter
This story first appeared in the Aug. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Before summer began, few would have predicted Magic Mike 2 would happen before a Battleship sequel. But so far the warm-weather season has delivered some surprises when it comes to creating or prolonging franchises, Hollywood's lifeblood. With summer heading into its final stretch, here's how the studios stack up.
Despite the bad press, Battleship ended up grossing $303 million worldwide, but the $210 million-plus-budgeted pic made just $65 million domestically, killing its franchise chances. Still, thanks to robust showings on three of its summer films, Universal likely will be carving out sequel release dates for Snow White & the Huntsman, Seth MacFarlane's Ted and a new American Pie.
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Long before Snow White launched a media maelstrom when compromising photos of star Kristen Stewart and married director Rupert Sanders emerged, Universal began moving forward with a sequel by hiring David Koepp, one of Hollywood's highest-paid screenwriters, to pen a follow-up. With a worldwide gross of $382 million on a $170 million-plus budget, Snow White is a modest if not mammoth hit, and the studio is said to be committed to extending the franchise. Will Sanders be involved? Universal says he will -- for now -- but an insider notes that Stewart's Snow White deal includes sequel language, while Sanders' does not.
Media Rights Capital and Universal are high on a Ted sequel, given the R-rated comedy's impressive $233 million worldwide take. But the decision is largely up to writer-director-producer MacFarlane. He told fans at Comic-Con, "I'd be open to making Ted 2." (Universal has yet to put together a sequel to its previous R-rated comedy smash, Bridesmaids.) At the same time, the R-rated American Reunion's $233.6 million showing -- 75 percent of which came from international territories -- has prompted the studio to think about a fifth Pie. Universal secured a production deal with the American Reunion writers before the film opened in April.
The Bourne Legacy is no sure thing, but if the Aug. 10 release performs as expected, the franchise almost certainly will continue, with room for Matt Damon to return alongside Legacy star Jeremy Renner.
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The studio's big summer bet was Ridley Scott's Prometheus, June's sort-of Alien prequel. The $130 million-budgeted film has grossed a solid but not spectacular $303 million globally, putting it right on the franchise bubble. (It should top out north of $360 million.) Fox confirms to THR that Scott and the studio actively are pushing ahead with a follow-up (stars Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace are signed) and are talking to new writers because Prometheus co-scribe Damon Lindelof might not be available. "Ridley is incredibly excited about the movie, but we have to get it right. We can't rush it," says Fox president of production Emma Watts, who also has overseen the successful reboots of the X-Men and Planet of the Apes franchises. A Prometheus sequel would be released in 2014 or 2015.
Columbia Pictures entered summer with several big questions: Would audiences embrace a rebooted Spider-Man? Would Will Smith's star power shine in Men in Black 3 after his four-year absence from the multiplex? The answers were yes. The Amazing Spider-Man has grossed north of $621 million, and a sequel already has been dated for May 2014. Sony wants director Marc Webb for the next film, but talks are complicated because Webb has an obligation to Fox.
MIB3 has grossed nearly $620 million worldwide, more than the previous two films -- though some have questioned whether its $230 million-plus budget and rich profit participations to Smith, producer Steven Spielberg and others would make another installment worthwhile. Sony says MIB3 is solid financially and that it's committed to prolonging the franchise.
Total Recall could become a new sci-fi franchise if it opens well Aug. 3. And spring's $200 million-grossing 21 Jump Street prompted a sequel that Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are scheduled to shoot in fall 2013.
With the March John Carter debacle behind it, Disney ushered in summer's box-office champ The Avengers ($1.46 billion worldwide, third-most of all time). Although Disney CEO Bob Iger told investors during a May call that Marvel is developing an Avengers sequel, insiders say a follow-up is coming only after four stand-alone Marvel movies: Iron Man 3 (May 2013), Thor: The Dark World (November 2013), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 2014) and Guardians of the Galaxy (August 2014).
Pixar's Brave has grossed $310 million worldwide so far and will end up ahead of WALL-E and Ratatouille. There is no sequel in the works, though the story left the door open for a second film, and the studio increasingly has pursued follow-ups (Monsters University is coming next summer).
The studio has closed one franchise with the July 20 bow of The Dark Knight Rises, which has grossed a strong $543.5 million worldwide to date despite the Colorado shooting tragedy (though it trails The Dark Knight by about $25 million at the same point). Warners will try to resuscitate Batman as a stand-alone franchise and/or as part of a planned Justice League ensemble that could connect to next summer's Man of Steel.
Meanwhile, male-stripper romp Magic Mike has proved to be one of summer's biggest surprises with $108 million domestic (it hasn't opened overseas). Any sequel decisions are in the hands of star Tatum and director Steven Soderbergh, who together financed the $6.5 million pic. Tatum's producing partner Reid Carolin recently told THR he is mulling prequel and sequel ideas. If and when that happens, Warners will get first crack at distributing.
The studio's big franchise movie, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, was bumped from late June to March 2013. So Paramount will need to wait until Halloween for its next Paranormal Activity and until winter to potentially launch another franchise with the Tom Cruise starrer Jack Reacher.