All sequels are, to some extent, about cash grabs; about exploiting existing characters and properties and creating opportunities for continued financial windfalls. Ask most fanboys, though, and they'll tell you that in the best of all possible worlds, the need to tell an extended story should come first — that when a sequel hits on all cylinders, like "The Dark Knight," for instance, it feels somehow necessary. It had a story that had to be told.
When Paramount Famous, a new division of the entertainment giant (which, like MTV, is owned by Viacom), announced made-for-home-entertainment (direct-to-DVD) sequels of films like "Bad News Bears," "Mean Girls," "The Naked Gun" and "Grease," however, hate spread like wildfire across the Internet, a bunch of bloggers and industry writers (like this and this and this) accusing division head Louis Feola of looking at films as brands rather than films that deserve more stories.
Speaking exclusively with MTV News, Feola said, "I tend to look at properties as brands and try and figure out the essence of the brand. What comes first is an analysis of the property by trying to figure out what the brand is, and the story follows from there," he said of the process his company employs to figure out which films to sequelize. "We look at if the film was written for theatrical release, and in all those instances they were. We look at how it's performed theatrically. We look at how it's performed internationally. This gives us a sense of the movie's staying power. Then we also look at the video performance in exactly the same fashion.
"And then I go through the process and I ask, 'Can I duplicate this experience, and deliver on it?" he concluded.
Feola and Paramount Famous aim to release six of these films a year, beginning with "Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling" in early 2009. By 2010, sequels to "Grease," "Bad News Bears," "Naked Gun," "Mean Girls" and "Road Trip" will follow.
(Click on over to the MTV Movies Blog to find out what these movies will be about.)
But, even given Feola's admission that story comes second, the pervasive presumption that all these films will be bad is simply untrue, he insisted. How does he know? Because the marketplace is the final arbiter of quality, he said, and the marketplace shows that these things sell like hotcakes.
"[The idea that direct-to-DVD entertainment is bad] is based on reality, to a degree, but it's also a very old point of view," he said. "In people's minds they still put it in [the dumping ground], but it's actually not, if you look at the quality level of production.
"Most of the time these people are talking in a vacuum," he continued. "They haven't actually seen anything that's been made yet and they just automatically presume that it's not going to be a great experience. It is a judgment that many times was gotten without any evidence. They just assume it's going to be a bad movie," Feola continued. "Having said that, the business at retail, that's about $2.5 to $3 billion in the U.S. So someone is having a good time ... go back and look at 'American Pie: Band Camp,' and 'American Pie: Naked Mile,' and you look at 'Bring It on Again,' or 'Bring It On: All or Nothing,' and you look at the animation movies, the 'Land Before Time's — those are pretty good experiences as a viewer. And the telling tale there is, I think, if they don't work then you don't keep making them. Someone is having a good time."
To help make sure you're that someone, Feola said he was reaching out to the creative team responsible for each of the original properties — Tina Fey and Linsday Lohan in the case of "Mean Girls," for instance, or Leslie Nielsen in the case of "Naked Gun."
"Each one is on a case-by-case basis and it also depends on what they have going on. In the case of Leslie Nielsen, we have written it for him to play a part in the movie. Whether or not he wants to, we don't know yet, because we haven't gone out to him yet," Feola said. "[But] we try to make the best quality product that we can make at the price that we can make it for. We work on very, very fast time lines [so we can't necessarily wait]."
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