I’ve spoken at great length about sequels and reboots; about the kinds of reboots and why they exist. I’ve also talked about marketing and about the timing of marketing. What I want to go over for this post, is the timing of sequels, reboots and remakes. Now, if a movie is well-received and makes enough money, a movie studio may try to get a follow-up film made. For movies that are one-and-done, we usually don’t see sequels. Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule; Independence Day Resurgence is a prime example. I’ll talk about that movie later. When there is a possibility of a sequel, there’s a window of opportunity that can be taken advantage of to make that sequel and have it out to audiences in a relatively timely manner. Now, what is the length of time between a movie and it’s follow-up/s? Depending on the technology available, the window could be anywhere from 2 years up to a decade. Making a movie is a lengthy process and it takes up to a year and a half, usually, to produce and put out the film.
The best opportunity for a sequel is generally about 3-5 years after the release of the original picture, if the technology permits it, of course. Let’s take Terminator 2, for example: When the original movie was released back in 1984, people loved the hell out of it. The ending of the film left it open for the possibility of a sequel. But the tech at the time really couldn’t allow for something on T2‘s scale to be made. James Cameron has always been one to really push for the advancement of technology, so in 1991, we got Terminator 2. That was about 7 years after the original film was released. Now, you would think that people would have moved on from The Terminator, but when the sequel was released, people ate it up, and it was the biggest movie of the year. So, people got a sequel that they didn’t know they wanted. But again, it was still less than a decade from the original film, so interest in the franchise wasn’t all dried up yet.
Let’s take a look at a more recent example: Independence Day Resurgence. Now, here is a sequel that nobody asked for. The rumors had been out there for years of a possible follow-up to the 1996 smash hit, but nothing had materialized until a few years ago. Here’s the problem: This is a movie that was about a decade too late. The actual problem is that the original Independence Day was self-contained. It had a beginning, middle, and end. The ending seemed pretty final to me, at the time. A lot of people agreed. So, the idea of a sequel was pretty much left to fan-fiction and the imaginations of the people who loved the movie. Had Resurgence been released about 10-12 years ago, it might have made more sense, and they would have been able to get Will Smith to come back. This is an example of a sequel that was made outside the window of opportunity. It also would have been better received than it was. Star Wars had about 3 years between films for each trilogy, so Star Wars gets a bit of a pass from me on this one. Now, certain movies like Lord of the Rings Trilogy are unique, because they were all filmed at the same time. It took about a year and half to film the trilogy, but they split up the movies and released them one a year. That’s a special case, because of the story that Peter Jackson wanted to bring to the screen. It made perfect sense to release the movies that way. It gave people enough time to process the movie by the time the follow-up came out, but it wasn’t a very long turnaround for each film. Now the timing for sequels depends generally on the kind of movie that they want to make a sequel to. Some movies warrant a sequel, but others don’t.
Reboots and remakes are a whole different beast. A remake is generally made for an audience that may be unfamiliar with the source film. The time between a film and its re-make or reboot can be anywhere from 7 years to 50 years. The reason I bring this one up is because we are getting a couple of high-profile re-makes this year. The first one I bring up is Ben-Hur. The original film starred Charlton Heston in the title role and was one of the greatest Biblical epics to be filmed. This year, we’re getting a re-make starring Jack Huston and Morgan Freeman. The original film was released in 1959. I have an issue with this one, because it seems like a shot-for-shot re-make. So, why now? I guess the film-makers assume that audiences want it, but I’m guessing it’s more for the money. I realize that a re-make of Ben-Hur wouldn’t have made sense thirty or so years ago, but it still seems odd that they would make a new movie nearly 60 years after the original film. The other one, I want to mention is the new The Magnificent Seven film starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt. I’m a fan of the original film with Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, but it looks really good. This is about 56 years since the original film was released, so it seems natural that the film-makers want to make a new movie for a new audience. They did the same with 3:10 To Yuma. That turned out to be phenomenal.
You generally want to give a movie time before you reboot it, but there have been cases recently where a movie franchise has been rebooted not even a decade after the last film. Spider-Man is a perfect example. It took Sony only 5 years to reboot the franchise and they’re doing it again with Spider-Man: Homecoming. The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield wasn’t well-received. Most people really didn’t need another origin story for Spider-Man so soon. It was about 6 years between Star Trek: Nemesis and the Star Trek reboot. But that one was an exception because Nemesis wasn’t particularly liked by critics or audiences and the box-office returns reflected that. The new Ghostbusters film is another example of bad timing. That movie was released about 20 years too late.
Timing is very important. Like I said before, there is a window of opportunity to take advantage of an audience’s need for more. When you miss that window, people are not likely going to favor a follow-up film. That window of time changes for each movie and it’s franchise, so it’s never the same kind of window. Re-makes and reboots can have a larger window of opportunity. It’s usually about decades-long, but even then, if you take to long to re-make a movie, audiences aren’t going to reciprocate. Film-makers can sometimes under-estimate or over-estimate an audience’s patience. That’s something that film-makers need to take into consideration.