Nearing the endgame: is Hollywood’s lust for sequels destroying cinema?

Franchises thrill fans and enrich studios. But in a fast-changing world, familiar comforts may be more harmful than we think

Coming not so shortly: a new helping of either Star Wars or Avatar for every Christmas between 2021 and 2027. Disney’s latest release schedule also promises eight more Marvel comic-book adaptations by 2022. Meanwhile, this year will see the spawn of not just behemoths such as Avengers, X-Men, Frozen, Toy Story, Spider-Man, The Lego Movie and Star Wars, but also less obvious franchise-launchers such as Godzilla, Men in Black, Shaun the Sheep, Angry Birds, Kingsman, Zombieland, Shaft and even Rambo. Never before have film sequels been so many and so varied.

They are nothing new, of course. The first specimen, The Fall of a Nation, released in 1916, followed the infamous 1915 Birth of a Nation. But in their early days, sequels were mainly cheap B-pictures churned out to reuse sets, costumes and props. Now, each new movie in a series grows bigger and costlier. The budget of the super-sequel currently hogging our screens, Avengers: Endgame, was $356m, compared with $220m for Avengers Assemble.

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Nearing the endgame: is Hollywood’s lust for sequels destroying cinema?