UW film prof David Bordwell recently made a post called "Live with it! There’ll always be movie sequels. Good thing, too."
in which he and some guest commenters defend the sequel. Last weekend my friend Charles and I got into a brief debate in which I expressed my dismay at the sheer volume of shit that Hollywood releases. He responded by saying that the marketplace is big enough to accommodate an array of blockbusters and more "sophisticated" fare. I agreed with him – to a point. I then expressed my frustration with the prevalence of sequels, remakes, and movies based on comic books. "There's room for everything," he retorted.
Head over to the Star Cinema's webpage
and look at the schedule for Madison, excluding the IMAX screen. I'm not sure how many screens there are there but the listing shows 20 slots. Fully half of them are occupied by a mere three films: Spider Man 3, Shrek the Third,
and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
. Sequels them all, they are all also the third installment in a series. Returning to the IMAX screen, Spider Man 3
is playing exclusively so there's not even one of the 45 minute nature documentaries to be had. That means, of the 21 slots, three films occupy more than half the slots. If you add in Knocked Up
which takes two slots, then you have four films taking up will over half the available slots. A look at Point Cinemas
reveals much the same. There are 16 screens at Point and the trio of sequels above occupy 9 of them. And again, if you add Knocked Up
, you find that 11 of 16 screens are given over to a mere four films.
So, is the marketplace really that big to accommodate a great variety of movies?
Just as was mentioned in Bordwell's post, I don't think that sequels are crap a priori
. There's no law of physics which says that sequels have to be lousy. I'm rather sympathetic to Pirates of the Caribbean
because it's less a sequel and more a serial. It is a single plotline told over the course of multiple episodes which begin immediately after its predecessor ends. Contrast this with the Die Hard
series where the individual films had virtually nothing to do with one another. John McClane just happens to run into terrorists wherever he goes. Each film is made from the same template with only minor details changed.
I enjoy the James Bond films. So there's a series I like with oodles of sequels. My point, though, is that I don't want a diet of purely Bond films; I like to mix it up. Give me a series but also give me a bunch of one-offs. Sequels can be fun and tell gripping stories. But the sheer number of screen at multiplexes devoted to them is disturbing. Charles is right in a sense – this isn't really a problem – but only if you live in large city or a smaller one like Madison with multiple venues for art/foreign/indie films.