In summer movies, it’s sequels vs. reboots

June 26, 2015, 8:00 PM UTC
Furious 7, Jurassic Park, Pitch Perfect and Ted: Universal Pictures/Photofest; Mission Impossible: Paramount Pictures/Photofest; Terminator: Paramount Pictures/IMDB; Star Wars: Disney/IMDB

Dinosaurs didn’t stand the test of time, but that didn’t stop tinkerers from reincarnating their genetically modified brethren, hoping to reap enormous wealth. That’s the premise of the Jurassic Park movies, of course, but it’s also a metaphor for what Comcast-owned (CMCSA) Universal Pictures just did with its dino-franchise.

Jurassic World is a “reboot”—a film with the same conceptual DNA as earlier movies in the series but with little continuity of plot or character to bog down the action. A reboot can make a stale franchise feel fresh, or revive one that some viewers are too young to remember. It certainly paid off for Universal: While each of the previous Jurassic movies was less popular than the one before it, Jurassic World had the biggest opening weekend in history, earning $524 million worldwide in just three days.

Hollywood long ago figured out that sequels and remakes boost its odds of success. “Audiences decry the lack of inventiveness,” says Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst with box-office research firm Rentrak (RENT). “But these franchises are the top movies of the year.” Already, the three highest-grossing movies this year are takes on familiar franchises (the two films ahead of Jurassic World are Avengers: Age of Ultron and Furious 7), and another sequel, Pitch Perfect 2, is the top-grossing comedy of the year so far.

Still, this summer could offer some clues to whether audiences prefer the reboot approach to the traditional sequel. Two true sequels (Ted 2 and Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation) and a major reboot, Terminator Genisys, open between now and the end of July. (The star of the latter film, 67-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger, wasn’t kidding when he said, “I’ll be back.”) Another summer reboot, Mad Max: Fury Road, is among the year’s top 10 grossers so far.

And December will bring a highly anticipated sequel, when Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens visits a galaxy far, far away—all over again.

A version of this article appears in the July 1, 2015 issue of Fortune magazine with the headline “The Reboot: The Sequel’s New Shape.”

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