Sequel stampede!

By Hindustan Times

If there’s one strong trend of 2012 rolling over into 2013 and promising to get even stronger, it is the trend of film sequels in India. While Bollywood released over eight sequels this year, it has already lined up around seven sequels for 2013 and announced at least six more, some of which will most probably also release in 2013.

Audience responses to sequels speak for themselves: a majority of the established original hits and more recent blockbusters have delivered successful sequels. Film sequels such as Don 2, Golmaal 3, Double Dhamaal and Murder 2 have delivered top opening weeks in Hindi cinema, in terms of net collections.

“Sequels are fun as we get to see an elaborated character with a better story-telling opportunity. It is like revisiting the known faces but with a different drama set and story,” said Ruby Mahalwar, 32, a software engineer and movie buff.

“In India, sequels have begun to work across all genres whether comedy, horror or thriller, and have invariably delivered bigger box office numbers when compared to the last installment in the series. This is because the lead characters or the plot in the original film were so loved by audiences that the sequels have a large inbuilt audience keenly awaiting the next installment of the franchise,” said Siddharth Roy Kapur, MD, studios, Disney UTV. Sequel successes

According to Shailendra Singh, joint MD, Percept Limited, which owns Percept Picture Company, sequels excite distributors, exhibitors and audiences alike. “The familiarity of a hit film’s sequel leads to all favorable synergies.”

However, film trade analysts say original stories are just too risky when the economy is fragile. “Sequels strongly reflect the growing scarcity of original stories. Since the economic slowdown is on, we have seen a growing number of rehashed stories,” said Amod Mehra, a film trade analyst. “When times are tight, filmmakers are more inclined to turn to safer investments. In movies, the safest investment you can make is in either a sequel or a story built from an existing franchise with a large fan base.”

While he has a point there, the growing global trend to build film franchises through a sequel or a series of sequels – Mission Impossible, Harry Potter, Transformers, Christopher Nolan's Batman series, the Bourne series and the Pirates of the Caribbean are a few Hollywood examples – surely points to there being opportunities beyond economic slowdowns.

A sequel to Hollywood classic Casablanca is said to be in the works for Warner Bros. Universal Pictures has confirmed a sequel to Ted and yet another film in the Bourne franchise.

“Globally at Disney, we have believed in the power of sequels to create long lasting franchises. The sequel to The Avengers is underway and in fact, the stupendous global success of the movie has added to the interest and excitement around the next installments of its characters like Iron Man, Thor and Captain America,” said Kapur.

The studio’s Bollywood sequel ambition is also high. “We will do this in two ways: one, via our star vehicles such as Race and Himmatwala which lend themselves easily to being sequels, and then with our high concept films such as India's first 3-D dance film ABCD, which releases in February,” Kapur said.

“Follow-up movies guarantee 80% sure-shot success. The risk is in the 20% as audience expectations are very high,” cautioned Mehra. Nonetheless, sequels are catching on in a big way globally and in Bollywood, with more studios looking at doing what Disney UTV says it is doing: focusing on developing scripts that are “sequelable”, and on scaling up the film with each sequel.

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