2011 Will Break The All Time Record For Movie Sequels

One in five Hollywood films this year will be sequels as the movie industry sets a new record for releasing follow-ups and studios are accused of lacking ideas.

New promo photo from the upcoming movie "Pirates Of The Carribbean: On Stranger Tides": Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) and Angelica (Penelope Cruz) make their watery way through the jungle in search of the Fountain of Youth. Photo: Peter Mountain/Disney Enterprises, Inc

At least 27 widely distributed films will be instalments of previously successful releases, leading to 2011 being dubbed the “year of the sequel”.

According to a study by movie tracking website Box Office Mojo, the amount of sequels to hit theaters over the past decade has fluctuated, with the highest amount (23) coming in 2003 and the lowest (10) in 2001.

That all changes in 2011, though, as this year will set a new record with 27 sequels arriving in theaters. Not only that, but 2011 will host the highest amount of “part 4” in history: five.

‘Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol,’ ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,’ ‘Scream 4’, ‘Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World,’ and ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (Part One)’ are all on the way.

Not content with stopping at merely two records, 2011 will also see another record broken when it comes to part fives, with, fittingly, five “part 5” arriving in theaters (‘Fast Five’, ‘Final Destination 5,’ ‘Puss in Boots,’ ‘X-Men: First Class,’ ‘Winnie the Pooh’).

We should also tack on those two part sevens (‘The Muppets,’ ‘Rise of the Apes’), and the one part eight (‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2’) for extra measure.

Six sequels are follow-ups to originals that were only released last year, signalling the determination of studios to strike while the iron is hot.

Examples of the unseemly rush to get sequels into cinemas quickly include “Piranha 3DD,” a follow up to the horror comedy “Piranha 3D,” which was only released in August.

“Hollywood is dipping into the well of past glory more than ever,” says Brandon Gray, founder and president of the Box Office. “It’s truly unfortunate that story is held in such little regard, when that’s what sells the picture more than any other element.”

The US box office has just had its worst January in two decades, despite critically acclaimed hits like “The King’s Speech” being in cinemas, and Hollywood executives are relying on sequels to turn that around.

Three blockbuster sequels are also already lined up for the Christmas 2011 box office showdown with the latest “Mission: Impossible” film being released on Dec 16, the same day as “Sherlock Holmes 2” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.”

Defenders of the trend claim sequels allow film-makers to further develop characters and deliver better movies than in the first instalment.

“Sequels aren’t the same as they used to be,” said Don Harris, distribution executive for Paramount Pictures, whose big sequels include July 1’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the third installment of the blast-happy franchise. “It’s not pandering to just fans. If you’re just in the business of making sequels, you’ll be out of business.”

Don Harris added, “Studios invested a lot of money to tell these stories and introduce these characters, and people want to see more of them.”

Déjà-view also gives filmmakers a chance for a mulligan, he says. “If you ask (Transformers director) Michael Bay, he’s said he had a better movie in him” than the second, Harris says. “He wanted to tell more of the story, and it’s very good.”

The willingness of studios to take risks on original ideas has been affected by the increasing use of social networking websites by audiences, which means bad films get even fewer viewers than before.

In addition to the 27 sequels scheduled for release this year a slew of other possible follow-up projects are also being looked at, including new “Bridget Jones” and “Ghostbusters” films.

“The problem with relying on sequels so much is that new franchises aren’t being created,” said Brandon Gray. “Sequels can only take you so far.”

“But take they will until they’re not profitable,” said Jeff Bock of industry tracker Exhibitor Relations. “Cinephiles aren’t going to be crazy about 2011. But as long as people turn out, you’ll get more sequels.” [Box Office Mojo via SlashFilm, MovieFone and USA Today]

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