Why ‘Secret Life of Pets’ Spells Good News for Original Ideas in Hollywood

A burst of fresh new hits has studios chasing untested content – but sequel fever isn’t over yet

The Secret Life of Pets

So long, movie sequels?

Well, maybe not quite. But as a so-called sequel slump depressed this year’s overall box office returns, some good news emerged for the studios: Many of this year’s highest performing movies represented new and original ideas.

Not based on anything but a story devised by Disney Animation creators, “Zootopia” was some of the year’s first proof of this, going on to surpass $1 billion worldwide and becoming the fifth highest-grossing movie of the year so far.

Now, Universal-Illumination’s “The Secret Life of Pets” should eventually surpass Disney’s hit as it bowed this weekend to $103.2 million, the sixth highest-grossing opening ever for an animated film.

“Pets,” from an original idea written by Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch, and directed by Yarrow Cheney and Chris Renaud, is bolstering Hollywood’s newfound confidence in brand-new intellectual property.

“It starts with really good filmmaking,” Nick Carpou, Universal’s president of domestic distribution, told TheWrap on Sunday, also crediting the massive opening of “Pets” to Illumination CEO Chris Meledandri.

“It’s a valentine to pet owners,” added Carpou. “And that’s why it’s been successful so far crossing gender lines cultural boundaries,” he said, citing the film’s strong performance overseas. “Pets” has made $42.6 million abroad so far in only six markets, with release dates pending in dozens more.

Counting this year’s successes — Paramount’s “10 Cloverfield Lane,” Universal’s Melissa McCarthy comedy “The Boss” and Warner Bros.’ “Central Intelligence,” which all made it into the top 20 of 2016 so far — fresh intellectual property is decidedly hoisting up this year’s box office.

20th Century Fox-Marvel’s “Deadpool” can also be counted since it is the first film based on the motor-mouthed comic book character after which the movie is named. And it’s the third highest-grossing movie of the year to date, behind “Finding Dory” and “Captain America: Civil War.”

“New ideas help grow the business,” said producer Brad Fuller, whose most recent release is the scary movie sequel “The Purge: Election Year.”

Another indicator Hollywood has found newfound confidence in fresh ideas is Pixar’s recent announcement that it has no more sequels slated after “The Incredibles II” in 2019.

“There will continue to be a hungry market for well-made sequels, but audiences are looking for new characters and new worlds just as much — if not more,” said BoxOffice.com’s Shawn Robbins.

But there’s a financial drawback to launching new IP. It involves a lot of extra marketing to familiarize audiences with a new brand. “It is certainly more of a challenge in today’s ‘sequel-ized’ world to compel audiences to take a risk with their hard-earned cash on something new rather than the tried and true,” added Robbins.

The added risk of investment can pay off, though, especially if a new brand represents a nascent franchise in the making. Which will lead to – you guessed it – more sequels.

When pressed on whether a sequel to “Pets” is happening, Carpou was coy: “It’s safe to assume we make movies we think people want to see.”

And seeing as “Pets” hit it out of the park, people will very likely be seeing the followup in the next few years.