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David Poland

By David Poland

An Ongoing Discussion Of Zeitchik "Axioms"

I was done with using facts to discount Steve Zeitchik’s grossly oversimplified idea of an “axiom” for sequels and third franchise films. But then I got a note from Steve… and he decided to make it public, but posting part of his retort to Twitter.
Twitter is good for clever retort, but not so much so for sharing facts. So… because he seems to want to do this… another entry…
His e-mail:
ha, you crack me up. unfortunately, the numbers support the point i was making. dating back to the late 90’s, there have been 17 major live-action franchises with sequels; with 14 of them the second film earned more than the first. in that same time there were 13 franchises with a third film; nine of them grossed less than the second film. sounds axiomatic to me.
My response:
Being this wrong really cracks you up?
I can only assume that you are not looking past domestic… even though every studio budgets movies and bases the choice of making sequels and tri-quels on foreign, where the majority of box office comes from.
6 of the 13 trilogies I’m counting had their biggest grosser with the third film. (Bourne, Rings, Spider-Man, Ice Age, X-Men, and Toy Story, which admittedly is still without international numbers)
Mummy’s difference between each of the three films is statistically insignificant… all three films are within $32 million worldwide. Harry Potter is irrelevant, as picking out #3 is just silly when the franchise went back up right after.
Pirates did go up and then down… but again, silly, as the third film went down less than 10% and was still more than 45% higher than the first film. Very much the same story for Shrek.
That leaves:
Star Wars 1-3, the first of which was the highest and the third of which was 2nd highest.
AND exactly two franchises that really fit your “axiom”… Mission: Impossible and The Matrix.
Gosh… now that you made me do more aggressive research, you are much more wrong than I thought.
As for the 2-film franchises – The 6 down second films I have are Narnia, Angels & Demons, Men In Black II, Night At The Museum, Sex & The City, and Oceans 12… so you’re already off.
In terms of your “axiom,” yes, Twilight, Transformers, Fockers, National Treasure, and The Chipmunks fit. But I just named six that don’t… so no axiom.
There are other titles that are complicated and don’t fit any axiom over the runs of their series. How are you dealing with Batman, Terminator, Fast & Furious, and Bond, each of which has at least 4 entires? How do you deal with slow-returning sequels for Indiana Jones, Die Hard, Jurassic, Superman, and Hannibal?
It’s hard to debate it in earnest, since what you are counting has criteria that are unclear to me.
My research now includes every film with at least one of the films grossing $350m worldwide in 1995 or later, the date set by your e-mail.
I would love to know where you came up with these numbers… because they are so neat, but so completely off-the-charts misleading. I did a quick look at the domestic numbers only and I am guessing this is where you pulled these stats out of your butt. But even then, there are completely misleading titles, like Spider-Man, which went down with both sequels domestically, but in which all three films had domestic numbers within $66 million on grosses from $336m and up. Or Alvin & The Chipmunks, whose two numbers were less than $2m apart.
Even in a cursory look at domestic only, I count six second films, with only two made, that went down (S&TC, Night At The Museum, Men in Black, Madagascar, Iron Man, Fantastic Four).
Please! Tell me what I am missing here?

I don’t know whether I will get another response. I am truly fascinated by his stats, because I can’t make them fit any model. But someone thinks they have numbers that make sense.
There is something a little scary for me about analyzing stats and finding someone else’s published numbers so wrong. I have to be missing something, right? But the numbers… they are the numbers.
Even Harry Potter, which I throw out for multiple reasons, doesn’t fit the #2 up, #3 down model, as #2 was down from #1, which remains the highest grosser of the series.
I have wasted an hour of my time on July 4 making extra sure that I was not giving Zeitchik a reason to crack up… at least in the laughing way. I worked through the actual numbers, not some weird stat that came from God knows where.
I guess we’ll all see if I hear back again. If I do, it will be added into this entry.

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11 Responses to “An Ongoing Discussion Of Zeitchik "Axioms"”

  1. MAGGA says:

    Not complaining about the articles, but this kind of discussion is sort of depressing. This is how studio heads make their decisions, isn

  2. MAGGA says:

    Not complaining about the articles, but this kind of discussion is sort of depressing. This is how studio heads make their decisions, isn

  3. MAGGA says:

    Not complaining about the articles, but this kind of discussion is sort of depressing. This is how studio heads make their decisions, isn

  4. MAGGA says:

    Not complaining about the articles, but this kind of discussion is sort of depressing. This is how studio heads make their decisions, isn

  5. a_loco says:

    Quadruple post! That’s gotta be some sort of a record.

  6. Pete Grisham says:

    There’s nothing saddder than seeing two morons with a sense of fake superiority arguing over something that makes no sense.
    Poland, neither your no Steve’s arguments have any real weight because they fail to take into account such important factors as time between installments (which, in turn affects attendance(!!!!!!!!!!) AND technology, and thus, APPEAL),
    change in directors and/or cast, budgets, etc.
    You are just making broad statements that don’t have any real prspective. You idiots even neglect worldwide grosses when it becomes too incoveninient.
    There’s no insight here from either one of you. You are both equally WRONG.

  7. Rob says:

    I think David’s point is that there is no broad statement to be made, whereas Steve is generalizing to fill column inches.

  8. Cadavra says:

    It is said that studios are now run by their marketing departments–they no longer care if a movie is good or bad; all that matters is, “How can we sell it?” Hence the plethora of remakes, sequels, and films based on TV shows, comic books and toys.
    Let’s look at Fox’s three summer pictures so far: a kiddie movie based on a comic strip, a big action film based on a TV-series, and a sort-of original, star-driven, adult romantic-comedy-thriller. Three films targeting three different audiences whose commonality is that they were “easy to sell.” And all three seriously underperformed. And marketing fell on its sword. This is what happens when bean counters are in charge, and sadly, it’s not likely to change.

  9. a_loco says:

    Pete, did you not read what DP just said? That there is no axiom, because there is no consistent pattern between sequels?

  10. David Poland says:

    Thanks for having my back, Cad and Rob, but without Pete, I wouldn’t be able to set my “I Hate David” watch.

  11. RDP says:

    “As for the 2-film franchises – The 6 down second films I have are Narnia, Angels & Demons, Men In Black II, Night At The Museum, Sex & The City, and Oceans 12… so you’re already off.”
    Why do you consider the Oceans 11 series to be a “2-film” franchise?

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon