Filmmaking is a risky business – a single movie can make a studio rich beyond its wildest dreams or send it spiralling into bankruptcy. Box office takings are split between the studio and the cinema owners, which means that even if a film earns as much as its production budget, it can still lose money. Add in marketing costs, and a film might have to bring in double its budget to become profitable.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that when a film turns out to be commercially successful, those behind it want to milk it for all its worth. Studios churn out endless sequels, assuming that the fans of the original will shell out their hard-earned cash in the hopes of reliving the excitement of the original feature. Popular franchises seem guaranteed to draw a crowd, with all of the Marvel, The Hunger Games and The Hobbit films so far proving extremely lucrative. Sequels dominated last year’s box office, and the trend looks set to continue, with Horrible Bosses 2, 22 Jump Street, The Purge 2 and Dumb and Dumber 2 scheduled for release in 2014.
Sadly, not all sequels can match the greatness of the original. The public’s expectations are high, and weak and unimaginative storylines, new directors and actors who refuse to reprise their roles all contribute to making a film’s second try a major disappointment. Some of these woeful sequels still manage to make huge profits, conjuring up images of fat-cat studio execs laughing all the way to the bank; a recent example of this being A Good Day to Die Hard, which was panned by critics but took in impressive profits. Others are not so lucky. Below is a list of sequels that, whether because of negative word of mouth, heavy market competition, lack of promotion, high production costs or other unfortunate issues, were failures at the box office. Due to the secrecy of Hollywood studios about their finances, many of these figures are estimates and all are sourced from Box Office Mojo.
10. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 – Profit of $32.7 million
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is the 2000 sequel to the immensely popular 1999 independent horror movie, The Blair Witch Project. The films are set in Burkittsville, Maryland and a follow a group of young people who go into the woods to investigate the legend of the evil Blair Witch – with terrifying consequences. After the success of the first feature, which was made on a budget of under a million dollars and grossed $248,639,099, Artisan Entertainment rushed to produce a sequel. Without the involvement of Haxan Films, Blair Witch 2 became everything The Blair Witch Project was not – big-budget, Hollywood-glossy and special-effects heavy. The finished product alienated fans of the original. It turned a disappointing profit, and plans for a third instalment in the series were put on hold.
9. Exorcist 2: The Heretic – Profit of $11 million
Exorcist 2: The Heretic is a 1977 supernatural horror film that follows the 1973 hit, The Exorcist. Linda Blair again stars as Regan MacNeil, a young girl who was possessed by a demon in the first film. Now, four years later, she discovers that it still lives within her. Though the original movie was a massive success, grossing over 400 million, the sequel took in only 25 million. The response from viewers was equally disastrous, and it is often billed as one of the worst films ever made.
8. Grease 2 – Profit of $3.9 million
Grease 2, the 1982 sequel to the incredibly popular 1978 musical Grease, was a major disappointment. Set in Rydell High two years after the events of the first film, it stars an almost entirely new cast, with the beloved Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta replaced by Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield. The sequel was slated by critics, who claimed that the plot was insubstantial and the songs were weak. It was nominated for a Stinkers Bad Movie Award for Worst Picture, and has a rating of just 22% on Rotten Tomatoes’ tomatometer. In comparison to the original musical, which grossed a staggering lifetime total of almost $395 million, Grease 2 brought in just over $15 million.
7. Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights – Profit of $2.6 million
Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights is a (sort of) sequel to the 1987 blockbuster Dirty Dancing. The plot is basically the same as the original, but the action is transported to Cuba, where a young American woman is given dance lessons by a sensual native man. The film was originally envisaged as a more serious political story based on the real-life experiences of the producer, who lived through the terror of the Cuban revolution. It eventually morphed into a fluffy remake featuring a cameo from Patrick Swayze, and was linked with Dirty Dancing in order to boost its commercial appeal. It made little over its $25 million budget at the box office.
6. The Rage: Carrie 2 – Loss of $3.2 million
The Rage: Carrie 2 is the 1999 sequel to the 1976 supernatural horror film Carrie, which was based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King. Carrie 2 tells the story of the now-deceased Carrie’s half-sister, Rachel – another teenage girl with telekinetic powers who wreaks revenge on her peers after they bully and humiliate her. Though the first film was nominated for two Academy Awards and was widely lauded by critics, the sequel was met with a lukewarm response. It failed to turn a profit, taking in only $17.7 million at the box office.
5. Caddyshack 2 – Loss of $8.2 million
Caddyshack 2, released in 1988, is the sequel to Caddyshack, a 1980 comedy starring Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight. Both films centre on a golf course. Chase was the only member of the original cast to appear in the sequel, and he later claimed that he regretted doing so. Caddyshack 2 was slammed for its unfunny script, bad direction and feeble plot, and has a score of only 5% on Rotten Tomatoes. In comparison with the first movie, which earned over $39 million, the sequel made back just over half of its $20 million budget.
4. Return to Oz – Loss of $15.8 million
Return to Oz is a fantasy film made by Walt Disney Pictures and based on a series of books by L. Frank Baum. It continues the story of The Wizard of Oz (1939), as Dorothy Gale comes back to the Land of Oz to discover it has been destroyed. Fairuza Balk replaced Judy Garland, who died in 1969, in the main role. Return to Oz was much bleaker than its predecessor, and was criticised for being too dark and creepy for children. Though it won itself a cult following and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects, the film performed poorly at the box office, grossing much less than its $28 million budget.
3. Basic Instinct 2 – Loss of $31.4 million
Basic Instinct 2, released in 2006, is the belated sequel to the 1992 erotic thriller, Basic Instinct. Sharon Stone returns as Catherine Tramell, the provocative and mysterious crime novelist. As in the first film, Tramell is being investigated for murder, and the detective assigned to the case becomes a pawn in her sexual games. Sadly, with a new director and the loss of Michael Douglas as Stone’s co-star, this film just didn’t measure up to the first one. It was panned by critics, won the most Razzie Awards of 2006 (including “Worst Screen Couple” for Sharon Stone’s lopsided breasts) and is one of the worst reviewed films of the 90s, according to Rotten Tomatoes. Though the original film raked in $352, 927, 224, Basic Instinct 2 failed to even break even making only $35,417,162.
2. Son of the Mask – Loss of $42.4 million
Son of the Mask (2005) is the sequel to the 1994 comedy fantasy movie The Mask, which was based on a series of comic books by Dark Horse Comics. Both films centre on a magical mask which turns its wearer into a green-faced madman. Though the original film was a huge hit with Jim Carrey in the starring role, the Canadian comedian didn’t return for the sequel and Son of the Mask was a critical and commercial disaster. It was nominated for numerous Razzie Awards and Stinkers Bad Movie Awards and holds an embarrassing score of 6% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film cost New Line Cinema approximately $100 million to make, and didn’t come anywhere near making that back in the box office.
1. Evan Almighty – Loss of $88 million
Evan Almighty, released in 2007, is the stand-alone sequel to 2003’s Bruce Almighty and a comic retelling of the Noah’s ark story. This was another comedy suffering the loss of Jim Carrey, who declined to reprise his starring role. Steve Carell was chosen as a replacement and the initial production budget was set at an already hefty $140 million. Due to problems involved with filming live animals, however, plus costs associated with set construction and computer effects and an expensive marketing campaign, spending on the film rocketed to approximately $200 million. Though Evan Almighty managed to bring in over $173 million worldwide, it didn’t do nearly as well as expected, and ended up losing an estimated $88 million – making it one of the biggest box office bombs of all time.
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