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'The Bourne Legacy' and more fourquels

Jeremy Renner stars in

Jeremy Renner stars in "The Bourne Legacy" Directed by Tony Gilroy. In theaters on August 3, 2012. Credit: Universal Pictures /

We're now deep into the trend of the "fourquel" -- you know, the one where Hollywood decides that three movies in a series aren't enough and opts for a fourth, usually a number of years later, sometimes in different form.

The latest such franchise extension, "The Bourne Legacy," came out two weeks ago. Like nearly every other of its kind, it performed worse than its immediate predecessor.

Jeremy Renner's "Bourne" took in $40.3 million, respectable enough for its $130-million budget but lagging well behind the opening for the third film, Matt Damon's "The Bourne Ultimatum" from 2007 ($69 million; $76 million when adjusted for inflation). "Legacy" has little hope of getting anywhere close to the third film's domestic total of $227 million ($251 million after inflation).

But "Bourne" studio Universal shouldn't feel too bad. The fourth movie in nearly every Hollywood franchise has performed worse than the third.

Sometimes, that drop-off is a nosedive ("Scream 4," down from $118 million for the previous film, after adjusting for inflation as with all older movies, to $38 million).

Sometimes, it's a small slippage ("Live Free or Die Hard" at $134 million compared to $150 million for 1995's "Die Hard: With a Vengeance").

And sometimes, it's somewhere in between ("Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" at $241 million vs. "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" at $361 million, or $1.04 billion vs. $1.07 billion worldwide). Those three were basically straight sequels. Attempts to wipe the slate clean or go off in a new direction don't fare much better -- consider "Bourne," or the recent "The Amazing Spider-Man" ($257 million domestic or $692 million worldwide) compared to 2007's "Spider-Man 3" ($372 million domestic or $986 million worldwide).

Backers of these fourth movies will point out that fourquels are sometimes conceived at lower budgets. That's true sometimes (though not frequently). And in any event, it disguises the larger point -- we're usually pretty tired of these movies by the time a fourth one rolls around.

Making a fourquel means you're guaranteed to be leaning heavily on a franchise that's steadily bleeding off fans. Something for studios to keep in mind as they contemplate the inevitable fivequel.

-- Los Angeles Times

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