Marketing secrets of movie blockbuster sequels

By Dr. Iris Mohr, Chief Editor and Founder, Marketing Fashionista 

Most big budget blockbuster movie sequels cost more than their predecessors, and from a marketing standpoint, they often do better too. For example, production costs were $110 million for the blockbuster Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, the fourth in the sequel, compared to $37 for Twilight, its predecessor. Though it is too soon to estimate total annual movie grosses, the opening weekend shows Breaking Dawn Part 1 generating $138,122,261, compared to Twilight at $69,637,740.

In a detailed study titled, “Conceptualizing and Measuring the Monetary Value of Brand Extensions: The Case of Motion Pictures,” four quantifying factors were identified that predict the success of movie sequels based on brand extension strategies. In the marketing world, brand extensions are defined as new products connected to well-known original or what are called “parent” brands.


The study found that movie sequels have two advantages over original movies. First, they have higher average box office returns, and second, are less financially risky. However, whether the movie is a success or failure depends on variables including parent brand awareness (whether the public is aware of the original movie), distribution intensity (the number of theater screens expected for opening weekend), parent brand image (if the first movie was widely considered good or not), and star continuity (whether the movie sequel has the same star as the first film).  The study found that parent brand awareness was the strongest factor; yet, star continuity is still essential.

Another study titled, “Dynamic Effects Among Movie Ratings, Movie Revenues, and Viewer Satisfaction” demonstrated that high early movie revenues enhance subsequent movie ratings. The study also found that high advertising spending on movies supported by high ratings maximizes the movie’s revenues. Furthermore, the study showed that sequel movies tend to reap more revenues but receive lower ratings than originals.

Even if movie sequels do not turn out winners, there is still money to be made on home video – the DVD and Blu, on line or on demand when viewed on computers, TV, mobile, or any other device.  In the case of the hugely successful franchise Star Wars and Harry Potter, where each movie became a mega hit, the huge opportunity for merchandising and theme park rides was beyond imagination.

Perhaps for Christmas 2012 with the premier of Breaking Dawn Part 2  on November 16, 2012, we can expect to see red eyed Bella dolls at Toys “R” Us.

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9 Responses to Marketing secrets of movie blockbuster sequels

  1. Nice to know about TWILIGHT.. Any way here is the new Movie trailer Part 2 of saga so check it out THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART 2 – Theatrical Trailer so this is dead end of over grate movie !

  2. Whenever a popular movie has a sequel the primary goal should be to raise the bar. Fans have already chosen their favorite characters and actors. This is where marketing comes easy. For example, as mentioned before there was a team Edward vs. team Jacob "battle" before the second movie was released. Now fans are choosing sides and buying all sorts of merchandise just to show support for their favorite character. The buzz generated from this was phenomenal. Even with the Harry Potter series there was much attention paid to the films, just because fans of the books wanted to compare the two. The books might have gotten people interested in the movie, but by the time the last movie came around it was the cast that everyone was talking about. Seeing those people perform on screen together one last time was what caused many people to rush to theaters.

  3. Depending on the success of the first featured film, It can be quite easy to promote the following movie. If the movies are pleasing their audience, then the audience will continue to support the movie. Movies that are based off a book tend to have a solid following because their fans know what to expect in the movie and love to support the movement of this story.

  4. In the case of the Twilight Series I totally agree that the movie sequel has an advantage over the original movie. Ever since the first Twilight movie came out in theaters the media has been generating buzz about the series. I remember when Twilight first came out either McDonalds or Burger King had all these commercials about "team Edward" and "team Jacob". The theme of vampires and ware wolves became so popular that it started to pop up everywhere from movies to TV shows. This however is not the case for all movie sequels. Many movies like SAW for example become repetitive and predictable, so much so that people find it pointless spend $13 to watch it.

    I think that for the successful movie sequels, once someone has seen the original they feel inclined to watch the rest. Most fans knew about Twilight via the novel but those who got hooked from the movie either 1. started to read the books which then made them want to watch the movies or 2. just really enjoyed the movie so they wanted to watch the rest of them. I personally have never read the novels but because I have already seen the first 4 parts I want to watch the last and final one. I predict that Breaking Dawn Part 2 will be successful maybe even more successful than part 1.

  5. I am sure that most of the people who watched Breaking Dawn Part 1 will also watch Breaking Dawn Part 2. These viewers are already fascinated by the Twilight Saga and therefore want to watch the final. If the movie sequel does not turn out well in the movie theater I am convinced that people will stay buy the DVD collection of all Twilight movies.

    I am greatly impressed by the fact that Toys R us will sell Red Eye Bella dolls, I always thought that girls who play with dolls are younger than the one who would watch Twilight. The entire Twilight Saga is partly very violent and sexist so I assumed that the audience is elder and stopped playing with dolls.

  6. I am impressed with this site, I am really a fan.

  7. While marketing sequels can be easy if you have successful parent material, I feel like you're using easy examples to analyze. Twilight as well as the Harry Potter series had a following built in because of successful source material that was already popularized before movie rights were ever sold. These weren't original concepts that ventured uncharted territory and just so happened to do well and give rise to sequels, these movies were in a way, "sequels" themselves, being based off of successful source material with a built in fan base.

    I think a better gauge would have been if the study analyzed original ideas that became so successful that there would be more money branding the idea further rather than starting another project. "Hangover 2" comes to mind.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is, I don't think that being a sequel makes people believe a movie is going to be any better than the original. I'll stick to the idea that some things are good, and some things just aren't.

  8. “Good blog, marketing a sequel is easy, if the original was successful. If you watched the original and liked it, those audiences will automatically come and watch the sequel. The reason, there is a high cost to the sequel, because of High expectations from the viewers. For example, whenever a harry potter movie released, it did better than the previous movie in revenues.”

  9. Marketing a squeal can be easier than for the original due to the preexisting awareness of the parent brand. The Twilight movies series has a variety of characteristics that would suggest a successful sequel such as: large parent brand awareness, positive parent brand image, and star continuity. Breaking Dawn Part 2 is likely to be a success.