OPINION: The problem with sequels

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A quick glance at the lineup of films coming out this year makes 2015 seem like one of the least original years in movie history.

Consider the releases in January alone, which include “The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death,” “[REC] 4: Apocalypse” and “Taken 3.”

Later in the year, movie-goers can look forward to a fifth entry in the “Paranormal Activity” franchise and a fourth “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movie.

Precisely none of these franchises warrant a sequel in any way, yet here they are. You have to wonder, who could be asking for these?

The simple answer: we are. It is no mystery why sequels exist. Movie studios need money, and audiences keep paying to see sequels.

A sad fact of our modern world is that it is getting harder and harder to get people into theaters these days.

Last year, six of the top 10 domestic box-office earners were sequels, and all of the top 10 were based on already existing properties. The top grossing entirely original movie from last year was “Interstellar” in 16th place.

This is nothing new of course, but in recent years, Hollywood has become more reliant on sequels than ever.

A sad fact of our modern world is that it is getting harder and harder to get people into theaters these days. Services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video have made it incredibly easy to watch hundreds of films without leaving the confines of your house.

In light of this, studios have started to fall back on sequels and established franchises to minimize risks and drive up ticket sales. Sequels are generally easier to make, cheaper to market and often come with an already dedicated audience.

None of this is likely to change anytime soon. Fortunately, it is not all bad news.

One notable exception to this rule is Universal Pictures. Last year Universal had its most profitable year in history after releasing only a handful of sequels and no blockbusters whatsoever, according to a forbes.com article by Scott Mendelson.

The fact that a studio like Universal can turn a profit with 15 wide releases, each of them costing less than $70 million, is pretty encouraging. One can only hope other studios take note.

Of course, big-budget sequels and franchises can still be great on occasion. This year is expected to shatter box-office records due to movies like “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

We’ll also see some new additions to the “Fast and the Furious” and “Mission: Impossible” franchises, which seem to get better with every entry. There are also a few wildcards, like “Pitch Perfect 2” and “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” that could prove to be delightful.

In the right hands, sequels can offer all kinds of new possibilities. They allow filmmakers to develop beloved characters and use a familiar framework to deliver exciting new stories and ideas.

The problem with sequels is they can also foster an attitude of laziness and complacency.

If you want to see original films, you’ll have a better chance by exploring the low-budget indie scene. You’ll find many incredible movies there, but if you want original blockbusters, you’re mostly out of luck.

Last year, films like “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” illustrated this perfectly. Here are two franchises coasting on brand recognition and nostalgia that both made over $200 million, according to boxofficemojo.com.

Last year’s “22 Jump Street” might have been the strongest argument against bland sequels yet. A good portion of the movie’s jokes were dedicated to pointing out how awful Hollywood sequels can be, which makes it a bit ironic that “23 Jump Street” is already in pre-production.

The real tragedy about sequels is that other more deserving projects are not being funded because of them.

Studios have limited resources. When they dedicate their budgets to pay for gigantic sequels, fewer original films are being financed, which means less diversity in our theaters. That is a real shame.

If you want to see original films, you’ll have a better chance by exploring the low-budget indie scene. You’ll find many incredible movies there, but if you want original blockbusters, you’re mostly out of luck.

Of course, sequels are not inherently good or bad. Talented people generally make good movies whether they are sequels or not.

That being said, we need to have a bit more discretion when we choose which franchises to support. We need new voices and stories in our theaters, not the lazy sequels crowding them out.

In other words, maybe we should all pass on “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” or at least wait for it to hit Netflix.

Connor Kelley is a senior in accounting.

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