Why are the Sequels winning?

Entertainment trends constantly fluctuate. Some years, audiences crave new experiences. Experiences where they take a gamble with a strong probability that they may not actually like their choice – but it is worth the risk. Then there is 2015.

Darth Vader

Unfortunately I am not a psychic. I cannot look into a crystal ball and work out what will be successful in the next twelve months. Nor can I tell prophecies from the alignment of the stars. But I can look at the movie release schedule . . . and it is almost as accurate!

2015 will be a blockbuster year for movies. However, while there are a number of highly anticipated new movies such as Fifty Shades of Grey and Kingsman: The Secret Service, they do not constitute next year’s major trend: Sequels.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part One). Avengers: Age of Ultron. Mad Max: Fury Road. Terminator: Genisys. Ted 2. Mission: Impossible 5. The 24th Bond film. The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies. And the highly anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII.

All these sequels are scheduled to open in the next twelve months and they are sequels to some of the past years’ big ticket movies.

This is a great sign for cinemas across the world which are currently dealing with declining attendance. But it also says something about the audiences. They want sure-fire hits.

Compared to a sequel, the risk is much higher when trying out a new movie. There is no way to know if you are going to absolutely love it or sit in a darkened cinema for two-and-a-half hours regretting the $20 that was just spent on this entertainment. The trailer is a great attempt to remedy this risk, but even enjoying the trailer doesn’t guarantee that you will love the movie.

Audiences need proof before they even make the $20 investment.

Even looking at the other highly anticipated movies coming up, Fifty Shades of Grey and Kingsman are both based on pieces of literature. There is the opportunity to read the book before embarking on the monetary and time cost of seeing the movie.

This idea of safety when making an entertainment decision has risen to the top of mind over the last few years. It arose when the Global Financial Crisis hit and disposable incomes plummeted. Marketers assumed that during these times of hardship spending on unnecessary items would decrease and this resulted in creating safe entertainment investments to ensure that audiences were 100% sure they would enjoy their experience – hence were more willing to part with their money.

The market has picked back up and entertainment spend is hitting new highs (the expected box office take for next year is $40 billion), but the successful entertainment options are still playing it safe with sequels of already loved films. This might suggest that money isn’t the overriding factor in choosing new or tried-and-tested entertainment options.

Could it be that we are less experimental with our entertainment? Probably not, the rise in YouTube entertainment is evidence of our experimental tendencies. Could it be a left over consumer behaviour trait from this financial crisis? Maybe.

I wonder if it is the competition. New forms of entertainment are emerging every day and their target markets are overlapping providing consumers with more choice than ever. And a large portion of that is free. Is it the cost component? Would it matter how much it cost? Probably not. What matters is that we are making the decision to pay and therefore want a guarantee that we shouldn’t spend those two-and-a-half hours on free entertainment.

Looking back may be safe and secure – but it is no way to move forward. So how do we get new entertainment choices into the highly anticipated basket? That is a difficult question to answer.