Movies & TV

Star Wars & The History of 7th Installments in Film Franchises

Your movie franchise made it to the 7th installment. Congratulations! Good for you. Way to stick it to those pathetic trilogies. You gotta commit if you want staying power, amiright? But what should you expect? How have other 7th films done? You’ve come a long way, but now every other news story is about how it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype (or the original). And there’s no curve for nostalgia. To the history books!

My Arbitrary Criteria: No spinoffs.  The Alien movies are out because we’d have to include the Alien v Predator movies to get to 7. X-Men also doesn’t count, as two of the films were mostly Wolverine-only affairs. As much as I’d love to include Land Before Time (13?! films), we’re strictly live action for this list (which still includes muppets, strangely). No complete reboots (Sorry Batman). Also, English only (Sayonara Godzilla).

In chronological order:

Bond – Diamonds are Forever

Man, Bond gets all the cyber-babes.
Bond is so cool he can get a diamond and two women just by playing the claw game

9 years after the original (1962-1971)
IMDB Users – 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes – 65%

What was it?
Connery, Blofeld, a woman named Tiffany Case (Jewelry Handbag? Moxie Manpurse?), classic Bond. Also known as “Hey, isn’t that the one after George whatshisface was bond for like half a minute?” Not be confused with “The one where Sean Connery comes back, but he’s significantly older” (Never Say Never Again).

How’d it go?
Domestic Adjusted Gross: $43,819,500 – 18th in the series. Not bad considering there are 25 of these things (and the series will continue on long past we’re all dust). Adjust for ticket price and it’s actually #9 out of the bunch. Either way you cut it, it’s firmly a middle of the road bond film that people generally enjoy.

The Pink Panther – Curse of the Pink Panther

Haha, that cat is trying to murder you
Haha, that cat is trying to murder you

20 years after the original (1963-1983)
IMDB User Rating – 4.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes – 29%

What was it?
A film centered on trying to find your star would be an anomaly in any other franchise. But for The Pink Panther, this was actually the second such attempt. The previous year’s Trail of the Pink Panther pulled a similar stunt, but cut together the film with unused footage of Peter Sellers (who died in 1980). Curse’s plot revolves around another bungling detective following the trail of Inspector Clouseau. Which, knowing the star died 3 years prior, is actually a bit sad, now that I think about it. Thanks a lot Pink Panther.

How’d it go?

Domestic Adjusted Gross: $11,351,200 – 9th in the series (out of 10). Only Son of the Pink Panther did worse. The Inspector was rebooted into real-life cartoon Roberto Benigni, who couldn’t resist hamming it up so much that you can feel it IN THE POSTER.

"I'm a wild and crazy guy!"
“I’m a wild and crazy guy!”

The failure of that shrug led to the series being rebooted with Steve Martin in 2006.

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

Friday the 13th
Glowing means supernatural power

8 years after the original (1980-1988)
IMDB Users – 5.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes – 28%

What was it?
You’ll see a lot of horror/slasher/torture films on this list. They’re cheap to produce (this 7th installment was just 8 years after the original), have a rabid following, and generally turn a tidy profit.
The 7th outing’s claim to fame was Jason battling a telekinetic girl at Camp Crystal. Because all of those non-supernatural teenagers were getting boring to massacre. We also see behind the hockey mask for an extended period of time, which someone thought the audience wanted. Sorry Mr.Vorhees, we didn’t come to the theater to see what someone’s face looks like after sitting at the bottom of a lake for 8 years.

How’d it go?
Domestic Adjusted Gross: $19,170,000 – 9th in the series. Not well. Critics and fans weren’t too enthusiastic about it either. The franchise still had some blood in it, as there were 4 more films before the series was inevitably rebooted. Since supernatural opponents didn’t get the crowds going, instead Jason went to Manhattan (too expensive), Hell (too humid), Space (too dry), and then crossed over with another horror icon…

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

A bad dream about the dangers of not wearing sunblock

10 years after the original (1984-1994)
IMDB Users – 6.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes – 77%

What was it?
Probably the most unusual sequel on this list. A meta movie about an evil force that likes the fictional Freddy’s work and decides to take his form. A clever concept that infused new blood (ha!) into the franchise. Wes Craven and Robert Englund play cowardly versions of themselves, unable to deal with this new reality. It was a bold move and I recommend the film for any fans of the series or the slasher/horror genre as a whole.

How’d it go?
Worldwide Gross: $19,721,741 – 9th in the series (dead last). Meta horror wasn’t really a sub-genre yet and audiences might have been confused by yet another level of separation between reality and the horrors depicted on the screen. The trailer starts off as a kind of behind the scenes documentary before transitioning into…what, I’m not sure (and I’ve seen the movie).
The sequel, Freddy vs Jason, roared back and earned the most of any of Nightmare film. A pretty early example of a crossover/shared-universe working out well for all parties.

Police Academy: Mission to Moscow

Antics and crotches! Sign me up…for literally anything else

10 years after the original (1984-1994)
IMDB Users – 3.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes – 0%

What was it?
Gutenberg checked out after the 4th film. Apparently he didn’t want to see how the old gang faired on the other side of the iron curtain. {Checks IMDB} Christopher Lee is in this?! If you’re as confused as I am, this trailer should give you a good idea of what you’re missing:




Ron Perlman, bad Russian accents and hilarious references to reigniting the cold war.

How’d it go?
Domestic Adjusted Gross: $126,200. That isn’t a typo. It’s not missing a decimal place. Each Police Academy movie earned less than its predecessor. The five year gap between #6 and #7 probably didn’t help matters. The writing was already on the wall for this rather dated series.

Star Trek – Generations

"You kids and your lens flares."
“You kids and your lens flares.”

15 years after the original (1979-1994)
IMDB Users – 6.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes – 48%

What was it?
A bridge movie to transition from Kirk to Picard and his generation (the first of 4 with the crew of TNG). It was an odd numbered film back when that shorthand still worked. Compelling on paper, it never quite lived up to expectations. Wouldn’t be retimelined for another 15 years.

How’d it go?
Worldwide Gross: $118,071,125 – 8th out of 12. And 2 out of 4 involving the next gen crew (only First Contact earned more). Audiences might have also been experiencing a bit of Star Trek fatigue. The film was written at the same time as the series finale for the next generation. It premiered the same year that show ended, which also happened to be DS9’s second season (and Voyager began the year after).

Halloween: H20

Is this one...underwater?
Is this one…underwater?

20 years after the original (1968-1998. Yup, precisely 20 years later)
IMDB Users – 5.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes – 51% 

What was it?
Much like Saw (see below), brings back some of the original crew (Jamie Lee Curtis in particular) to continue the story of the original. Several of the movies between are retconned so this one will make sense. It gets one more film (which, in itself, retcons parts of this film) and then is rebooted (surprise!). Confused?

How’d it go?
Dom Adjusted Gross: $55,041,700 – 2nd (behind the reboot). Which might make you assume that the real appeal of this isn’t Michael Myers, but Jamie Lee Curtis. She also starred in the 8th film, which was critically panned, but still did modest business in theaters.

Saw 3D – The Final Chapter

No gimmick too small to use
No gimmick left unused

6 years after the original (2004-2010. one a year each October like clockwork)
IMDB Users 5.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes – 9%

What was it?
Rides the wave of the 3d craze, brings back surviving characters, and kills people off like an All-Star Hunger Games (or when they brought together the worst people from MTV’s Road Rules and Real World and had them fight to the death).

How’d it go?
Worldwide Gross: $136,150,434 – 6th out of 7. Still quite a respectable haul for a $20 million budget horror film. But even grading it on the “horror film curve”, it didn’t seem to really connect with audiences. Hasn’t been rebooted yet because they’re probably waiting for VR torture porn movies to become a thing first.

Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows Part 1

The one where they go camping.
The one where they go camping.

9 years after the original (2001-2010)
IMDB Users – 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes – 78%

What was it?
A bit of a cheat. Planned from the start, supported by the astronomically popular book series, this movie was always going to happen.

How’d it go?
Worldwide Gross: $960,283,305 – 7th (only beating Azkaban). Audiences enjoyed it but felt a little itchy for the final showdown. Started the modern trend of splitting the finale of these young adult epics into two films.


The Muppets

You can't hold back a wall of felt.
You can’t hold back a wall of felt.

32 years after the original (1979-2011)
IMDB Users – 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes – 96%

What was it?
There’s no continuity and no real consequences from movie to movie. But I’m including Bond, so the muppets stay. Jason Segel wanted to write and star in a Muppets movie, so they let him. Easy. Turns out the characters were still loved and the movie was very well received. Everyone wins.

How’d it go?
Worldwide Gross: $165,184,237 – 1st by a lot. The world can’t get enough of an abusive relationship between a slightly neurotic frog and a vain pig.

The Fast & Furious – Furious 7

Staring into the distance together makes your family stronger.
Staring into the distance together makes your family stronger.

14 years after the original (2001-2015)
IMDB Users – 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes – 81%

What was it?
Paul Walker’s untimely passing during the shooting caused some early concern for this growing series. But few franchises know their audience (as diverse as the cast) and genre like this one does.

How’d it go?
Worldwide Unadjusted: $1,514,800,000 – 1st in the series. The rare franchise that keeps getting more and more popular with each movie (with Tokyo Drift being the bastard middle child no one wants to take responsibility for).

Rocky – Creed

"I need your help. To bring this hat back in fashion."
“I need your help. To bring this hat back in fashion.”

39 years after the original (1976-2015)
IMDB Users – 8.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes – 93%

What was it?
Rocky is clearly too old to be fighting professionally, so moving the focus to the son of Apollo Creed is a smart move. For a fleeting moment I thought this would be a revenge tale of the son seeking revenge on Ivan Drago in a small mountain town somewhere in Siberia (where they clearly sent Drago for failing to win in Rocky IV).

How’d it go?
Worldwide Gross (so far): $84,621,018 (7th in the series adjusted for ticket price inflation, which is important when we’re going back to 1976). It looks to easily beat Rocky 5 and 6 given a few more weeks in theaters. The real story is how critically acclaimed it is. Rather than be an empty passing of the torch story, critics and fans alike love this entry. Stallone was even nominated for a Golden Globe for the first time since the original Rocky.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

{insert lightsaber noises}
{insert lightsaber noises}

38 years after the original (1977-2015)

What is it?
You know what it is.

How’s it gonna go?
For perspective, Episode IV (the original) had a Worldwide Adjusted Gross: $1,310,412,745 (which is double most of the other films). It helps that it was in theaters for years (counting special editions, re-releases, etc.). The pre-sale for tickets to this one broken fandango and, so I don’t think Disney is going to be hurting, financially, after this film has its run.


What’s it all mean?
Star Wars is, amazingly, the 3rd 7th installment in a film franchise THIS YEAR. If you look above, you’ll see the same thing happened in 1994 (and two of those franchises are still around).
Everything works in cycles. Westerns are hot one decade, cold the next two. 20 years later we’ve got studios revisiting movies that molded them as children. Either through sequels, reboots or tv series. They’re continuing characters, styles, or even just tropes that we have grown accustomed to over time. It’s a really long and slow TV show. Serialized content has become the new normal. A soap opera where we only peek in for the most interesting bits every few years.

Of course, the 7th movie doesn’t have any secret mojo to it. It’s not cursed or blessed. It boils down to whether or not the filmmakers still have something to say. They all play on recognition. Either for the villain (Michael Meyers, Freddie Krueger, Jason Vorhees), the hero (Inspector Clouseau, James Bond, Captain Kirk, Harry Potter, Kermit the Frog, Rocky), or just a familiar universe that we’d love to see more of (Saw, Star Wars, Fast & Furious). The audience already knows the rules of the world, the genre. While the filmmakers have the added difficulty of meeting expectations while still being surprising and original. A tricky prospect in a hypercritical world where Twitter users lambaste tv showrunners for not having their favorite characters get together. How do you find that balance between respect for your audience and pandering?