Studios Banking On Summer Sequel Success

(CBS) This summer, moviegoers will see some familiar faces on the big screen as Indiana Jones and Batman, among others, return to theaters. Sequels can be a lucrative business, as The Early Show's Maggie Rodriguez discovered.

It's not only hard for Harry Potter fans to say goodbye to the sorcerer's stories - it'll also be difficult for the studio that has taken the books from page to screen; making two films from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the seventh and final novel, will keep the magic going through 2011.

"I think it's a no-brainer for Warner Brothers to split Harry Potter into two features," says "Variety" columnist Anne Thompson.

Of course it's a no-brainer: so far the films have conjured up $4.5 billion in ticket sales, and a whopping $20 billion in merchandise.

"One of the reasons that Warner Brothers has succeeded is that they've been very loyal to the books. J.K. Rowling, the author, has been very closely involved. She approved of this split by the way, and one of the reasons is because they will be able to include all of the details in this pounding conclusion," Thompson explains.

Harry Potter is the latest blockbuster brand name. But Hollywood has long tapped sequels to boost its bottom line.

Last year, sequels were golden at the box office. "Spider-Man 3," "Shrek the Third," and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" made it a record-breaking summer at the movies.

"Studios, theater owners and audiences love sequels and the box office bares this out. We've seen time and again that these sequels have done extremely well," says Paul Dergarabedian, the president of "Media By Numbers."

Is it any wonder that Indiana Jones is riding into theaters this summer with a sequel, even though it has been 19 years since the last one, and the hero is now 65?

But not all sequels are created equal. Audiences gave a thumbs-down to "Legally Blonde 2." And after the original Batman franchise fizzled out, the studio reinvented the series and is bringing out "The Dark Knight" this summer.

"The original Batman films became overloaded and bloated and seemed to lose their reason for being. George Clooney is still making fun of himself as Batman. So they had to start over, they had to re-invent it and now one of the sequels that is also anticipated this summer is the 'Dark Knight' which is the second Batman movie starring Christian Bale," Anne Thompson explains.

Critics say that casting is key to a successful sequel - without the original star it just doesn't work. Fans and the studio fell for actor Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter. And by the time the series ends, the "boy wizard" will be 20 years old.

David Poland, the editor of moviecitynews.com, joined Rodriguez to talk more about sequels and what moviegoers can expect in theaters this summer.

Asked if the move of splitting the Harry Potter finale into two movies is pushing it, Poland predicts it's going to be a success. "The series has been so remarkably successful. Not any one of the five pictures so far has made less than $800 million worldwide. So it's a ton of money. And that's going to be the case for these sequels, split into as many as they can make them into," he explains.

"Unbelievable that 20 years later we're seeing Indiana Jones back, 20 years later another sequel….Because 20 years later, to see the reaction of people, even during the trailer, tells me it will be a hit," Rodriguez says.

"It's really the first one of the summer where everybody's grandmother, their parents, their kids, everybody's going to want to see the picture, and that's very unusual," Poland predicts. "Most of the pictures this summer are very specifically for kind of the geek boys or for the girls or somebody specific. This one really should get everybody."

"And what about 'The Incredible Hulk'? It didn't do well when it came out and now they're having a sequel. Why have a sequel to an unsuccessful movie?" Rodriguez asks.

"Well, Universal is doing it with two movies this summer, with 'The Incredible Hulk' and with 'Hellboy II,' where they're taking a movie that didn't do quite as well at the box office as they expected and putting in a second picture. Basically, it's a franchise that exists, people know it exists, and it helps the marketing. The hope is that it can make significantly more than the last movie based on DVD sales and people getting familiar with the movie, watching on cable and satellite and all that, then people develop a relationship and see it the second time. They also make them cheaper," Poland explains.

The most successful sequel of all time, Poland says, was "Shrek 2."

"The highest grossing film domestically of all time came out of 'Shrek 1,' not seen by as many people. This was seen by over $400 million worth of sales in the box office," he says. "Secondly, worldwide it's "Pirates of the Caribbean," where the second movie made almost $1 billion."

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