What a heady dish. The Anthony Hopkins - Julianne Moore gorefest ”Hannibal” has been such a lip smacking success – a $58 million opening weekend, the third largest in history – that we may not have seen the last of Dr. Lecter.
Even before ”Hannibal” began its assault on the $273 million worldwide gross of ”The Silence of the Lambs,” producers Dino and Martha De Laurentiis had ”Silence” scribe Ted Tally tapping out a new screenplay based on ”Red Dragon” – the 1981 Thomas Harris novel that introduced the cannibal. (They own the rights to ”Dragon,” on which Michael Mann’s 1986 film, ”Manhunter,” was based.) Hopkins has expressed interest in this prequel, depending – but of course – on the script.
Given the struggle to make ”Hannibal,” the Chianti has clearly gone to someone’s head. But the idea of a retread can be intoxicating – which is why ”Hannibal” is just the beginning of a new sequel frenzy. In 2001, 11 are slated to hit theaters – from ”Rush Hour 2” to ”Jurassic Park” 3, with major projects like ”The Matrix” 2 and 3 ready to roll. Columbia Pictures alone has at least seven in various stages of development, including reprises of ”Charlie’s Angels,” ”The Mask of Zorro,” and ”Jumanji.”
It’s a curious strategy given that of last year’s six sequels, only Tom Cruise’s $215 million ”Mission: Impossible 2” outgrossed the original (by $34 million). Most followed ”The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas,” a yabba dabba do nothing that earned $35 million to its predecessor’s $130 million domestic take. Sequels often cost more – thanks to inflated star salaries – and earn a third less, according to Hollywood rule of thumb. But, notes Dan Marks, a VP for box office tracker ACNielsen, ”If a movie grossed $150 million, $100 million isn’t bad. It makes good business sense.”
Is there another ”Hannibal” size hit on the horizon? Here’s an update on five high profile sequels and their prospects.
The campy monster movie earned a surprise $66 million domestically in 1997 – and a big fan in Columbia production head Peter Schlessel, who’s actively developing a follow up for 2002. But will Jennifer Lopez slither back now that she makes $9 million per film? ”Let’s be real,” laughs a studio insider. (J. Lo’s rep is noncommittal.) Luckily, the snake doesn’t have an agent. PROGNOSIS Mimic the low budget of ”Anaconda” – and it could slink off with a pretty profit.
”Men in Black” 2
To entice Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones to redon Ray-Bans, Columbia is gambling on a complex deal: The stars, returning director Barry Sonnenfeld, and a producing team that includes Steven Spielberg will get a huge 50 percent (collectively) of the gross – to a certain amount, after which the studio stops sharing. (”It’s a really low number – we aren’t stupid,” swears a studio source.) Shooting on the film, rumored to involve an interplanetary war, is slated for June – F/X folk will start their magic if a strike intrudes. Yes, the math is risky for Columbia. But did we mention ”MIB” made $588 million worldwide? PROGNOSIS Back – in the black.
”The Scorpion King”
After watching The Rock play the regal arachnid in May’s ”The Mummy Returns,” Universal shelled out a reported $5 million for the WWF star to do a spinoff. ”The Rock has movie star presence,” explains producer Jim Jacks, who’s tapped Chuck Russell (”The Mask”) to direct the film this March – before ”Returns” is even released. The story follows The Rock as an Akkadian assassin (circa 3000 B.C.) who must kill the woman he’s fallen for. ”He’s limited by his size and physique – like [Arnold] Schwarzenegger,” Jacks says. ”But there’s a need for someone like that.” PROGNOSIS A smackdown opening.
”Blue Streak” 2
Martin Lawrence is collecting a reported $20 million to return to the 1999 con to cop role that helped break him. No word yet on whether fellow officer Luke Wilson will be back, but original scribe Steve Carpenter is on board. ”A $70 million film doesn’t normally scream to be sequeled,” says Schlessel. ”But with Martin continuing to grow as an actor and box office attraction, we thought it was appropriate.” PROGNOSIS To justify that salary, he’d better be on a streak.
”Meet the Fockers”
Whether the MPAA swallows the title to this ”Meet the Parents” sequel is the least of its issues. ”All we have is a premise: What would happen if Robert De Niro’s family meets Ben Stiller’s family?” says Jay Roach, who directed last year’s $165 million grossing hit. The two leads are committed, though there’s no start date – or script. The scene is likely to be the wedding of Stiller’s character to De Niro’s baby girl. ”There’ll be some funny discussions about whether Pam should take the Focker name,” promises Roach, who pictures a duo like Mary Tyler Moore and George Segal playing Stiller’s parents (as they did in ”Flirting With Disaster”). ”His own parents [Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara] are real funny too.” PROGNOSIS De Niro and Stiller are a bizarrely apt comedy duo – we’ll pay extra for scene stealer Owen Wilson.