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Sequel Opportunity: 8 of the Fastest Follow-Ups in Film History

Sequel Opportunity: 8 of the Fastest Follow-Ups in Film History

It took Universal all of three days last summer to greenlight a sequel to The Purge, the dystopian thriller that takes place during a 12-hour period of government-sanctioned lawlessness. Given the $34 million the movie made in those three days, the only surprise is that the studio didn’t get working on a sequel even faster. Just over a year later, The Purge: Anarchy is arriving in theaters this weekend. With a little over 400 days between original and sequel, The Purge is one the quickest sequel turnarounds by a studio in recent memory. We took a look back at some other rushed reunions that sped into theaters after the surprise success of the original.

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Scream 2 (1997)

Scream writer Kevin Williamson never meant for Scream to stand alone. When he sold the original script, he included a treatment for a sequel. After Scream's surprise success, Dimension Films took him up on it. In June 1997, with Scream still in theaters, director Wes Craven gathered his stars again to begin shooting the follow-up. But before he could start filming, disaster struck: Williamson’s script leaked online and had to be completely rewritten. Craven said the process set them back two months, but the film’s release date didn’t move from December 12, 1997. In order to get everything done on time, Williamson was forced to pound out revisions in a trailer during shooting.
Critical take: “…Scream 2 [is] an obvious cash grab and attempt to build a franchise on top of meta-satire not strong enough to sustain itself for that long.” —Mostly Movies
Time after original: 12 months

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Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

A month into its theatrical run, Paranormal Activity had racked up $62.5 million at the box office despite a tiny budget and little marketing. So naturally, Paramount exec Brad Grey was “looking to see if [a sequel] makes some sense.” It took a couple months, but by early 2010, the sequel got the green light with an accelerated schedule that called for a release in October. Saw veteran Kevin Greutert directed while Oren Peli, the writer-director of the original sat on the sidelines. The resulting film, like most rushed horror sequels, wasn’t as well received by critics as the original. Fans ate it up anyway.
Critical take: “The clumsy and obvious byproduct of the financial success of its predecessor last Halloween, this movie has no reason for existing except to provide Paramount Pictures with a few extra shekels.” —ReelViews
Time after original: 12 months

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Scary Movie 2 (2001)

Released less than a calendar year after the original, Scary Movie 2 is the sequel to a film whose tagline was, “No mercy. No shame. No sequel.” But after delivering $248 million at the box office on a $19 million budget, that was a promise director Keenen Ivory Wayans couldn’t keep. So with his core cast intact and a new batch of D-ilsters, he pounded out the first sequel in what would become a five film franchise.
Critical take: “Mostly, the Wayans just seem tired and rushed, too busy trying to cash in on Scary Movie and its unexpected success to worry much about coming up with fresh material.” —Baltimore Sun
Time after original: 12 months

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Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000)

With the deafening buzz of the found-footage horror movie The Blair Witch Project still ringing throughout Hollywood, Artisan Pictures, which made over $200 million on the film, wanted to strike while the blockbuster was still hot. The original directors did not. “We really had no involvement with it and would rather have had Artisan wait until all the buzz around Blair died down,” Dan Myrik later said. So Artisan found a new director and sped along. The resulting film was less found-footage and more formulaic scares. Artisan killed everything that made the original great and got the box office returns to prove it: Book of Shadows managed just $47 million worldwide, less than a sixth of the original.
Critical take: “The real problem here may be that Blair Witch 2 was made simply — and only — because Blair Witch made a lot of money.” Boston Globe
Time after original: 15 months

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Wayne’s World 2 (1993)

When an Saturday Night Live sketch becomes a movie, no one complains about well-known gags showing up on the big screen. But when those same gags appear again in a sequel, that just won’t fly. Repetition was just one of the problems with Wayne’s World 2, which was rushed into production after the original blew up the box office. It also relied too heavily on spoofing other Hollywood hits, a sure sign of a cash grab.
Critical take: “Nothing more than a quick cash grab, this follow-up lacked the humor and heart of the original, trading on the theory that bigger equals better.” —Starpulse
Time after original: 22 months

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Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003)

It’s not often that a lightweight comedy is elevated by an exceptional performance, but that’s what happened in the original Legally Blonde. Reese Witherspoon’s charm and the movie’s bounty at the box office made releasing a sequel a no-brainer. Perhaps MGM should have taken its time though. In its haste to produce Legally Blonde 2, the studio had to find a new director and shoot a lackluster script with a hokey message.
Critical take: “Legally Blonde 2 is a sickening exercise in crass money-making, and a blatant attempt to cash in on the success of the first film, which feels laboured and pointless from the word go.” —Indie London
Time after original: 24 months

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The Hangover Part II (2011)

The sequel to The Hangover is the rare non-franchise part two that got moving even before the original was released. After watching audience reaction to test screenings of the original, Warner Bros. signed up director Todd Phillips and his stars for a sequel. Two summers later, The Hangover Part II arrived in theaters with many of the same jokes as the original. That the sequel was so familiar and uninspired was no accident. Phillips and his writers set out to create a film that was nearly identical in structure to part one. Rather than come up with an inventive story, the writers decided to just put the characters in even more outlandish scenarios and watch them react.
Critical take: “The Hangover—it fell apart a bit in the second half, and none of these performers thrills me to my bones—but even in its weaker moments, that film had more comic integrity than this blatant cash grab.” —Slate
Time after original: 24 months

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Teen Wolf Too (1987)

There’s no surer sign that sequel shouldn’t exist than a new star, new director, new writer, and identical premise. Replacing Michael J. Fox as the title werewolf in Teen Wolf Too was Jason Bateman, son of producer Kent Bateman (nepotism is another bad sign). Though it took more than two years for this shoddy sequel to be made, it’s got all the hallmarks of a rush job, from the unrealistic sets to the extra low-budget special effects.
Critical take: “Had the script offered something different from the original besides minor cosmetic changes, then perhaps it would be worth watching, but as is, the less said about it, the better. ” —DVD Talk
Time after original: 27 months

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Photo credit: Everett, Dimension Films/courtesy Everett Collection