Film Franchises Successfully Turn Back the Clock
Hollywood is finding more profit in moving backward in time than forward.
Origins stories are all the rage with studios. "X-Men" and "Star Trek" had huge debuts to kick off the summer. And "Terminator Salvation", opening nationwide today, brings audiences back - or forward, depending on your perspective - to the "Judgment Day" war that began the series in 1984.
Nervous that moviegoers are weary of sequels, studios are downplaying the continuing stories entirely. For this summer's franchise pictures, numerals have been retired - except for "Halloween 2". There's this week's" Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" (the second installment), "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" (also Part 2, June 24) and "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" (the third chapter, July 1).
But executives say origins stories offer bonuses no sequel can. They allow filmmakers to recalibrate decades-old series to court younger moviegoers.
"You have to start somewhere," says Lauren Shuler Donner, producer of "Wolverine". "An origins story is like getting to know somebody. When you meet someone and like them, you want to know where they came from. It grounds your franchise."
Or helps it take off. "Star Trek" enjoyed a debut twice as large as any in the 11-movie franchise. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" opened with $85 million, the year's largest debut.
Some executives credit Batman with the surge in origins stories.
"Batman Begins" really showed how much a back story can free you up creatively," says Chris Aronson of 20th Century Fox, which released "Wolverine". "You don't have to confine yourself."
Origins also are a key device in turning old franchises over to new audiences, says Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures.
"It's the perfect way for parents to show their kids the movies they grew up on," says Moore, whose studio released "Star Trek". "If you can keep the core idea that worked years ago, suddenly you have two groups that want to see your movie."
Horror, in particular, has been ripe for re-starts. "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th" rebooted to big numbers.
"People know a lot about these movies, so you have a built-in curiosity," says "Halloween "director Rob Zombie, whose sequel is due Aug. 28. "But you talk to these kids, and they haven't seen the original. An origins story will be their original."