A new report this morning from Variety indicates that distributors and studio heads have already begun to bat around the notion of greenlighting sequel films for the upcoming adaptations of the video games Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell. The item quotes Daphne Yang, the CEO of overseas financing outfit Catchplay, saying during a press conference that “They are both adaptations of successful Ubisoft games and would make ideal sequels.” (A growing player, Catchplay also threw Martin Scorsese the necessary capital to complete filming his upcoming Silence.) Variety confirmed that U.S. producer New Regency has made plans to develop franchises out of the two properties, but there’s one aspect of this that raises a few questions: Neither of these films exist yet.
It’s a strange, relatively new practice for studios to commit to sequels for films that haven’t even found their own success yet. There was once a time, a simpler time, when a studio would release a film, consider the box-office receipts, potential for additional revenue, uptick in star salaries for future projects, and then render a decision as to whether pursuing a sequel would be worth it. Now, with every studio hungry for their own cash-cow franchise wherever they can find it, executives model their spending habits after TV’s business strategy. Each new property is treated like a pilot episode, existent mostly to provide an indicator as to the franchise’s potential for lucre and longevity. This practice has begun to catch up with Hollywood: Consider Lionsgate, which committed to four Divergent movies during the heady apex of the post-apocalyptic YA genre’s popularity, and must now scramble to recover after waning public interest dealt Allegiant a pitiful $29 million opening weekend. Making the assumption, sight unseen, that the public will turn out for a new release solely because it follows a previous success’ brand is a bold move. Making that assumption without even the “previous success” is foolishness — unless it works.