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Only One Movie in 2017 Has Totally Avoided the Sequelitis Slump

‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ is very close to being another, but not quite.
By  · Published on September 25th, 2017

‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ is very close to being another, but not quite.

Don’t be fooled: sequelitis continues to devastate franchises this year, despite what the weekend’s box office might have you believe. Kingsman: The Golden Circle only appears to have opened bigger than its predecessor with $39M.

But Kingsman: The Secret Service technically did better when you account for inflation ($39.6M) — albeit just barely. The spy movie follow-up also cost a good deal more to produce. Maybe the international gross will make up the difference.

Meanwhile, The Lego Ninjago Movie is a definite disappointment with its debut of $20.4M. That’s a 73 percent drop from the (adjusted) amount The Lego Movie opened with in 2014 and even a 60 percent dip from The Lego Batman Movie, released just seven months ago.

We can’t blame the bad reviews since both the new Kingsman and the new Lego installments received similarly worse critical reactions than their predecessors (though Ninjago‘s dip is more substantial). Both movies also got the same CinemaScore grade: B+.

Ninjago isn’t exactly a sequel (the literally titled Lego Movie Sequel arrives in 2019) but it is part of a franchise that’s taking a hit, just like every other franchise this year save for those based on Marvel and DC comic books plus one other surprise success.

And not even comic book movies are immune, either. The Lego Batman Movie is both a spinoff of The Lego Movie and a Batman movie, and for both it’s a low-earner. Of course, the Caped Crusader at least should be redeemed with the guaranteed success of Justice League this fall.

With quite a few more sequels on the horizon for 2017, including Blade Runner 2049Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea HalloweenThor: RagnarokA Bad Moms Christmas, Daddy’s Home 2Pitch Perfect 3, and of course Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Hollywood better hope that moviegoers start going back for more of the stuff they liked before.

As a show of how bad they’re doing so far this year, here’s a look at every sequel released over the last nine months and how much worse they opened domestically than their franchise’s original and peak efforts:

The Giants

Many of the biggest surprises of the year in terms of box office disappointments are the tried and true blockbuster behemoths that fell very hard with their latest chapters.

Transformers: The Last Knight dropped 51 percent from the first Transformers and 66 percent from the franchise’s best, Revenge of the Fallen. Its domestic total was 73 percent down from that peak sequel’s tally.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales was similarly down 66 percent from the POTC peak, Dead Man’s Chest, though only nine percent from the first movie. The new movie just finished its domestic theatrical run down 70 percent from the series’ highest gross.

The Fate of the Furious at least opened better than its earliest predecessor, though the first Fast and the Furious movie wasn’t such a big deal. Compared to the previous, peak installment’s opening, though, Fate was down 35 percent. And in total it’s down 38 percent.

Fading Properties

Not as surprising are the officially final and probably final installments of some overstayed series. Underworld: Blood Wars opened 57 percent below the first movie and 62 percent below its peak, Underworld: Evolution, and finished 64 percent down.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter opened 49 percent below the original Resident Evil installment and 58 percent below its peak, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, finishing its domestic run 63 percent lower.

Blasts from the Past

Resurgences came from all over this year, some of them surprise sequels and some of them just surprisingly poor performers. Split was the former, and though it wasn’t widely known to be an Unbreakable sequel at first, it opened 20 percent below that movie. Perhaps because of the revelation, it actually finished 31 percent better.

Rings seemed to come along without anyone realizing it was a sequel to The Ring, opening 43 percent below the original 2002 remake and 73 percent below its 2005 follow-up, The Ring Two. The first movie was still the highest-grossing, and Rings finished a whopping 86 percent down from its take.

Trainspotting also got a long overdue sequel this year without much fanfare. T2: Trainspotting opened in here on five screens compared to the first movie’s eight screens and saw a negative difference of 68 percent — 48 percent difference if we go by the per-screen average. The sequel’s domestic gross is 93 percent less than the 1996 original’s.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage saw a slight improvement over the xXx franchise’s previous effort but opened 70 percent below the 2002 original and closed out down 79 percent.

The Other Horror Movies

Aside from Rings, two other horror sequels disappointed comparatively. Alien: Covenant, the sci-fi horror prequel sequel, opened better than the first Alien due to many reasons but closed out down 74 percent from the 1979 original’s domestic gross. It also opened 36 percent lower than the franchise’s best debut, Prometheus.

Also a prequel, Annabelle: Creation opened 27 percent below the 2013 original Conjuring movie and 13 percent below the first Annabelle spinoff. Its current near-final domestic gross is down 36 percent from The Conjuring but is actually 10 percent up from Annabelle.


Kids get tired of franchises, too, obviously. Although Despicable Me 3 had a marginally better opening than the 2010 original, its current and near-final domestic gross is down 10 percent. Compared to its peak opener, the spinoff Minions, it debuted 42 percent down, and compared to the peak sequel, Despicable Me 2, its gross is 38 percent down.

Pixar’s Cars 3 opened 35 percent below the first Cars, which is also still the franchise peak. Its current and near-final domestic gross is 54 percent below.

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature, which naturally wasn’t necessary, fell 62 percent with its opening gross and with its current near-final domestic number dropped 61 percent.

Even before the Lego Ninjago Movie disappointment, The Lego Batman Movie was down 31 percent from The Lego Movie‘s opening and 38 percent from its domestic gross.


Yes, even docs have sequels, and yes, even they disappointed. An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power opened on just four screens, like its Oscar-winning 2006 precursor, but debuted with 68 percent less at the box office. And its final number is 89 percent lower.

There’s also Buena Vista Social Club: Adios, which opened on 80 screens to 1999’s Buena Vista Social Club‘s 15 and yet opened to 71 percent less and finished with 99 percent less. Generation Iron 2 posts no opening figures but a total gross that’s also 99 percent down from the first Generation Iron.

The Indie

Occasionally smaller fiction films have sequels, as well, and in the case of the Trip trilogy, it’s been just as much a problem with diminishing returns. The Trip to Spain opened to 53 percent less than The Trip, though on half as many screens — its per-screen average was only five percent down. But its current near-final domestic gross is down 56 percent from the original and 68 percent down from the more successful The Trip to Italy.

The Adult Drama

The Fifty Shades trilogy is halfway through with Fifty Shades Darker, which opened an appropriate 50 percent down from 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey and finished its domestic theatrical run down 37 percent.

The Apes

Two movies centered around apes arrived this year, one of them a prequel spinoff and the other a trilogy capper. The former, Kong: Skull Island, opened 38 percent down from its cousin, the 2014 Godzilla, and grossed 21 percent less.

War for the Planet of the Apes‘ opening was down just nine percent from the 2011 reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and its current near-final domestic gross down just 27 percent, but compared to the more successful Dawn of the Planet of the Apes its opening was down 30 percent and its total down 37 percent.

Superhero Blockbusters

Here’s where we’ve got the most improvement exceptions. Leading the pack this year is DC’s Wonder Woman, which did in fact dip from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as an opener, by 40 percent, but domestically it’s the DCEU’s top grosser by 17 percent.

On the Marvel side, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 actually opened 29 percent better than the 2014 original and grossed just five percent more domestically. It did debut 36 percent below peak MCU, The Avengers, and grossed 43 percent less, but that’s not a fair comparison.

Nor is Spider-Man: Homecoming with its similar opening and gross compared to the Avengers movies. For a Spider-Man movie, though, its 41 percent difference from his peak opening, Spider-Man 3, and 47 percent difference from his highest grosser, 2002’s Spider-Man, is significant.

Logan is another Marvel champion, albeit outside the MCU. The movie opened just 12 percent lower than 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine but wound up with a total domestic gross six percent higher. Compared to the greater X-Men franchise, it’s just slightly less than the original with a one percent opening dip and 32 percent total dip while a 36 percent debut drop from peak opener, X-Men: The Last Stand, and 40 percent domestic gross drop from top grosser, Deadpool.

The Biggest Exception

John Wick: Chapter 2, like Kingsman: The Golden Circle, follows up an action movie that nobody expected to be so good. But it improved even better upon its 2014 predecessor, opening 50 percent higher and outgrossing the original by 50 percent, as well. No pressure, John Wick: Chapter Three.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.