So the Hollywood marketing machine is hyping a movie as the next big thing in the industry. The producers are so confident that they have already announced the comic book adaptation, action figures, the flamethrower and plans to make a trilogy.
However, when the work is actually released, it flops and kills the plan to make more out of it. This can happen for a variety of reasons:
An adaptation that pisses off the fans of the original source and fails to capture mainstream interest.
A niche property being shotgunned into a multimedia cash cow even though not many are interested in it.
Something that just plain sucks.
In some cases, the start of a stillborn franchise may actually be critically and/or even financially successful, but complications (such as the creators parting ways with the production company and losing the rights, or the creative team focusing on other projects) prevent sequels from being made.
On top of the actual Word of God from the creators about their plans and the natural law that forces executives to milk anything they spent a lot of money on, there are also several common hints to their intentions that affect the work in various places:
Great Dangaioh’s performance was bad enough to have the show get cancelled and leave things hanging in episode 12 (out of a planned 26). This effectively ensured that the Dangaioh series as a whole would never get a proper ending (let alone resolve the OVA's events).
In the world of BD sales, the general chance of a series getting a second season is often called the "Manabi Line", where they must pass a certain amount of BD sales per volume (at least 2900 units) to warrant the hopes of getting a second season, failing to do so will result in a stillbirth adaptation.
Sonic The Hedgehog The Movie was supposed to be a full-fledged anime series, but only two episodes were released because the franchise's popularity in Japan is lower than it is elsewhere.
Marvel Comics has a number of attempts to create new superhero lines. The New Universe did relatively well, in the sense that it made it three years before imploding. Others less so.
A number of characters which were supposed to be the next generation of heroes. Among them Sleepwalker, Darkhawk, Super Pro, and Slapstick. None of them lasted long, although there have been many attempts to bring them back after years in Comic Book Limbo.
The Shadowline Saga, a completely new 1988-90 Grim And Gritty superhero universe.
Razorline, a 1993 attempt to create another new superhero universe, with Clive Barker.
David Hand's Animaland series, a lushly animated series of Golden Age shorts, was supposed to be a full fledged series. But since it was unable to find a distributor in the US, it died after just nine shorts. David Hand's son has tried to revive the series, but nothing ever came from that.
The 1999-2000 Russian animated series Adventures in the Emerald City was supposed to be an adaptation of L. Frank Baum's Land of Oz novels. They only got to producing four episodes, adapting the first two books, before the budget ran out and they were unable to secure more funding.
This might be because the Russians are more familiar with the literary translation by Alexander Volkov than the original novel. In fact, Baum's sequels didn't get the same treatment from Volkov as the first novel, as Volkov went on to write his own sequels to the translation, unrelated to Baum's sequels except for the occasional magical artifact or substance.
Daredevil was released during the early 00s superhero movie boom, trying to use a darker tone and character. However, reviews were mixed, but word-of-mouth was much more negative, and the film is generally considered a failure. While several follow-ups were considered, including an adaption of the famous "Born Again" storyline, they weren't considered worth the investment, and rights reverted back to Marvel. A Daredevil Netflix series is currently being filmed, and is to be the first of several series leading up to a Defenders series, all of which are set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, not being on prime-time TV or meant to be accessible to all audiences, are allowed to be much darker.
Green Lantern ended with a Sequel Hook setting up Sinestro as the Big Bad of a future installment, and was intended to be the start of DC's version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, the movie was met with lukewarm reception at the box office and terrible reviews from critics, which killed off any chance for a sequel or a shared universe. WB is only just now getting around to trying to launch a shared continuity again with the 2016 Man of Steel sequel.
The Battlefield Earthmovie is an adaptation of the first half of the book. Despite John Travolta's (decade-old) claims, it is probably safe to say that the sequel is not forthcoming. Not that a planned sequel would have been very exciting anyway, as the second half of the book basically revolved around getting the paperwork for the first half squared away when the Psychlos' bankers came calling.
An animated series was also planned and actually went quite far into production, with voice actors being cast and, according to rumors, the pilot episode was almost fully animated by the time of the film's release. Needless to say, no network was too eager to pick up the series.
Eragon, despite having been hubristically advertised as "The First in the Trilogy." Ironically, the movie leaves out the book's Sequel Hook ending and changes so much that it would be impossible to make additional films without making massive changes or giving the franchise a reboot. Oh, and there's the fact that the author decided to write a fourth book within a few months of the Eragon film's release.
The Golden Compass was a blockbuster hit outside the U.S., but Misaimed Marketing and some boneheaded decisions by New Line Cinema (which led to their getting absorbed intoWarner Bros.) ensure that the rest of the trilogy won't see the light of celluloid. Like Eragon above, some of the changes make it hard to figure how they would have finished it anyway. Apparently the filmmakers were quite determined to make the full trilogy work, but the late-2000s recession caused New Line to pull the plug. Outcries from the Christian right in the U.S. over the first film may have also hurt its chances; while The Golden Compass didn't have a lot of anti-religious content to play down in a film, adapting the rest of His Dark Materials in a way that wouldn't offend that market would result in an unfaithful adaptation that would have offended the novels' fanbase.
Barb Wire was poorly received by critics and fans of the original comic book and bombed at the box office, leading Dark Horse Comics to take back the film rights and prevent any more Barb Wire movies. So far it is the biggest box office failure based on a Dark Horse franchise, with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For being the runner-up.
Battleship, like The Golden Compass, did well in every market except North America, which sunk its chances of becoming Hasbro's next Transformers-style blockbuster film franchise.
Van Helsing was supposed to spin off a TV series, Transylvania, in addition to at least one film sequel. The Direct-to-Video animated featurette Van Helsing The London Assignment doesn't count — it was released at the same time the film hit theaters (and explains why Van Helsing was fighting Mr. Hyde at the beginning of the film). While the original did gross plenty of money, Universal found it wasn't enough to make them happy, which is why they pushed the reboot button.
All the actors in 1998's Lost in Space adaptation were contracted for a trilogy. When the first one failed, the rest were canceled. Especially sad is the DVD commentary where Akiva Goldsman still seems optimistic that he has a successful franchise on his hands, and gives a preview of what viewers can look forward to in future films. Basically, he was saving all the good stuff for the sequels, so naturally the first film had little to recommend and killed any chances of seeing it. Thus proving that it is a terrible idea to save the good stuff for the sequels.
It's quite evident by the ending that the Dungeons & Dragons film intended to have more films following it revolving around the same characters. Thankfully for viewing audiences, that never came to pass.
The animated version of The Lord of the Rings by Ralph Bakshi made it halfway through the second volume of the novel (The Two Towers). Due to Executive Meddling, the title did not indicate that it was Part I, and a sequel was never produced. Rankin-Bass' The Return of the King is sometimes seen as (and, today, frequently marketed as) a sequel to the Bakshi film, but the two films don't link up perfectly and differ wildly in style and tone. There's no official relation between them.
The film of A Series of Unfortunate Events is an adaptation of the first three books with an ending tacked on, covering 3/13 of the series. The ending doesn't preclude a sequel, but there hasn't been one. There are still plans for one.
Master and Commander had pretty much the entire cast signed on for multiple sequels, and they bought the actual boat they used to make sure it was going to be available. It made enough money for it to be deemed a financial success, as well as being well received critically, but not enough to make the sequel a sure thing, and in the end it never happened. It was even fully titled Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, taking the titles of two of the books so that the first book's name would work as a series title followed by the particular book that the film was closest to. The principal cast have all said over and over that they'd love to do more, and so has Peter Weir. Weir just tends to take a long time in between his projects. He's also said that shooting a film on water is the hardest thing a director can do, and thus he'd really need to be sure that it'd be worth it. (He asked the directors of films like Jaws and Waterworld for some advice on how best to make a ship-set film. They all said "Don't".)
Ray Harryhausen's Jason and the Argonauts ends with Zeus saying "For Jason there will be other adventures..." which sounds like a sequel hook, but there wasn't one. This is probably for the best, because Jason becomes a total Jerk Ass in at the actual myth.
Ang Lee's Hulk was divisive and dropped off at the box office sharply from its huge opening weekend. Marvel let the would-be franchise wait for a few years before giving it a Continuity Reboot (which suffered the same fate as the previous film right down to the near-70% 2nd weekend drop, but the character was later a part of The Avengers with The Other Darrin #2, Mark Ruffalo.) The positive reaction to Ruffalo's interpretation of the character has already seen him signed on for a stack of entries in the franchise. Whether they'll escape the curse or not is another matter. After several years with no sequel to The Incredible Hulk, there's very little chance that future films will actually build on the original's intended Sequel Hook (with Samuel Sterns becoming the Leader). (Tie-in material for The Avengers film at least resolved that particular thread.)
Inverted in the case of Garth Brooks' alter-ego, Chris Gaines. A movie called The Lamb was planned to chronicle the life and times of the multi-platinum enigmatic recording artist in Brooks' head. Then the preview Greatest Hits album (recorded by Garth in-character) bombed, despite "Lost in You" being Garth's only Top 40 pop hit, in or out of character.. Safe to say, no Lamb will be forthcoming. KISS's Music from "The Elder" was a similar failure; it was supposed to be the springboard for a high fantasy film they would have starred in.
A strange variation of this was done for Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes. While he himself had no intentions of doing any more movies, he deliberately left a Sequel Hook in case another filmmaker decided to do more.
The Super Mario Bros. movie left on a sequel hook, with Daisy finding Luigi and Mario and shouting "You're never going to believe this!" We'll never find out what they'll never believe, since the planned sequels never saw the light of day either due to production costs or lack of interest.
Disney started work on a TV spinoff of Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), but when the movie bombed they canned it and edited the completed episodes into a direct-to-video movie. This one is of special note to Gargoyles fans, as Greg Weisman was the producer on both shows and one of the unfinished episodes was to be a Cross Through between the two.
Plans to retheme the Submarine Voyage at Disneyland to an Atlantis ride were also scrapped between the failure of the film and the general Development Hell of the Tomorrowland '98 expansion. The subs remained docked until finally getting reopened as a Finding Nemo (2003) ride.
In fact, every single animated Disney movie that failed at the box office starting with The Great Mouse Detective (1986) and ending with Meet the Robinsons (2007) will always be a stillborn franchise.note After Robinsons was released, Disney's new management announced that Disney Feature Animation would no longer be making films with the sole intention of turning them into larger franchises. You can easily tell by which characters from those films were added into the merchandise: if a film succeeds at the box office, then the hero(ine) will be marketed very greatly, but if the movie fails, then the villain will be marketed instead.
A few notable live action stillborn franchises for Disney since the '90s include:
Dick Tracy (1990), though not for the assumed reason that it wasn't a hit at the box office. It didn't reach the Batman-level grosses Disney hoped for and the merchandising was a total dud (Warren Beatty complained in a Premiere interview at the end of 1991 that they tried to blow up the film into something it wasn't with the latter), but it was still successful enough that a sequel was planned. The problem was a dispute between Beatty and the Tribune Co. over who owned the rights to the Dick Tracy franchise. The dispute didn't end until over 20 years later, in March of 2011. Beatty won the lawsuit and has plans for a sequel, but it's currently in Development Hell.
Sky High’s stillbirth wasn't its own fault, as it was a critical and commercial success. Disney just didn't consider it enough of a success to risk investing in the planned sequels. The fact that a lousy-as-hell imitator called Zoom was rushed into theaters the very next year can't have helped, either.
John Carter (2012) has become a particularly famous example of this. The problems began in late 2011 when Disney shopped the film around to various toy companies, and all of them refused to sign a deal to produce John Carter-based merchandise, claiming that films based on Mars (including Disney's own bombs Mission to Mars and Mars Needs Moms) don't sell. In response, Disney dropped the "of Mars" from the title and refocused marketing efforts from the film's sci-fi elements to its action/adventure elements. The changes didn't resonate with the general public and sci-fi fans, both of whom saw the new advertisements and concluded that the film was a generic fantasy blockbuster. As a result, the film flopped at the box office, and ultimately led to the resignation of studio chief Rich Ross and the firing of marketing chief MT Carney.
The Lone Ranger (2013). Disney had been planning on making a film based on the Lone Ranger since the early 1990s, and finally greenlighted the film's production in 2008. The production ended up going wildly over budget, was shut down for a while, and started up again a few months later with a slightly smaller budget, which ended up going up again. It got to the point where the film would have needed to become one of the highest-grossing films of all time to break even, at which point Disney decided to hold off on sequel plans. After the film bombed (according to some estimates being the biggest flop in history) the plans were completely thrown out.
Jeffrey Katzenberg brought the whole concept of "every film we do needs sequels" to Disney when he left Paramount to join the studio in 1984, and he held on to that mantra when he left Disney to form DreamWorks SKG (with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen) in 1995. Every single successful film that DreamWorks Animation has made has been turned into a franchise in some way, while their not-so-successful films have been all but swept under the rug.
The Road to El Dorado (2000) was supposed to be the beginning of a film franchise about Miguel and Tulio's various adventures in search of gold. Unfortunately, low grosses and DreamWorks' preoccupation with its new-found computer animation meant that chances were not solid gold.
Shark Tale (2004) did well in the United States and Canada, but its poor international take meant that a planned sequel did not move into production.
Over the Hedge (2006) is unique among DreamWorks' stillborn franchises in that it actually did well critically and commercially, but disagreements that the studio had with United Media (who at the time owned the rights to the franchise) ultimately resulted in the cancellation of Over the Hedge 2 as well as a Pearls Before Swine movie.
Flushed Away (2006) was supposed to mark the beginning of a new franchise, but it resulted in both a $109 million loss and the end of the eight year partnership between DreamWorks and Aardman Animations.
Bee Movie (2007) did mediocre business at the box office, but the main reason that a sequel didn't move forward was that the film resulted in two lawsuits against it by a Swedish animation studio and a Florida-based cosmetics company, both of whom sued over alleged plagiarism.
Megamind (2010), like Shark Tale and Monsters vs. Aliens before it, did poor international business and as a result a sequel to the film was cancelled.
Rise of the Guardians (2012) was supposed to carry the successful The Guardians of Childhood book series into a new medium, but instead the Guardians fell — and took down $83 million of DreamWorks Animation's money (and 25% of their employees) with them. Guardians was particularly notable at the time of its release for being the first non-Aardman DreamWorks film to actually lose the studio money since Sinbad almost a decade earlier, and for being the first time in the studio's history in which animators were fired as a direct result of a films under-performance.
Turbo (2013) actually managed to underperformRise of the Guardians at the box office (though oddly enough the studio didn't take nearly as big a hit, only losing $13.5 million on the film). This was a major blow to DreamWorks as they were hoping that the film would result in their next billion-dollar franchise (or more accurately, that it would result in their version of Pixar's own billion-dollar racing franchise Cars). A made-for-Netflix show called Turbo F.A.S.T. was put into development before the film came out and premiered in December 2013, but that show's lukewarm reception coupled with a lawsuit against the film means that any chance of a Turbo sequel is all but dead.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014) was the first film made as a result of DreamWorks' purchase of the Classic Media holding company, and was intended to test the waters and see if audiences would be interested in seeing Classic's library of older characters re-imagined on the big screen. Although it had a decent opening weekend and held the #1 box office spot in the U.S. for a week, as well as good critical and audience reception, it quickly fell, probably due to competition with the arguably more appealing The LEGO Movie and Rio 2 (as well as other non-animated films), and ended up losing the studio $57 million. The movie also managed to underperform bothRise of the Guardians and Turbo, and currently is the studio's lowest grossing CGI film since Antz. Of course, any chance of a sequel or other future development is practically zero at this time.
The last forty years have seen several examples of attempted hard-boiled detective/police/private eye films series that never reached more than one film.
Larry Cohen intended to make a few sequels to his 1982 remake of I, the Jury. The script for one of them served as the basis for 1987's Deadly Illusion, but as of 2010 no further Spillane-based films have reached theaters.
Darker Than Amber was the only film based on John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee books.
Devil in a Blue Dress was the only adaptation of Walter Mosely's Easy Rawlins books.
Eight Million Ways to Die adapted Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder character.
James Lee Burke's Heaven's Prisoners featuring Dave Robicheaux only had a direct-to-DVD follow-up, In the Electric Mist, with Tommy Lee Jones taking over from Alec Baldwin.
The first book in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, One for the Money, was released in 2012; it bombed at the box office and was eviscerated by the critics.
The end of the film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy left a Sequel Hook that the characters would be going to The Restaurant at the End of the Universe in the next film. The first film was somewhat successful (grossing $104 million worldwide on a $50 million budget) and the actors and the director were signed on for a sequel, but Disney (through Touchstone) decided against making it, claiming the film wasn't profitable enough.
The adaptation of Royal Flash in 1975 did not lead to other adaptations of the Flashman novels.
Gorky Park did not lead to other adaptations of the Arkady Renko novels by Martin Cruz Smith.
The Empty Beach did not lead to other adaptations of the Cliff Hardy novels.
Primal Fear, based on the novel by William Diehl, could have been the beginning of a trilogy of films featuring Richard Gere as Martin Vail and Edward Norton as Aaron Stampler (the duo were featured in two more of Diehl's novels, Show of Evil and Reign in Hell). That didn't happen.
Just as Doc Savage served as a partial template for Buckaroo Banzai, his 1975 film announced a sequel which never appeared.
Flash Gordon ended with a sequel hook, with someone taking Ming's ring.
The Specialist did not lead to other adaptations of the Specialist novels.
While Firefox, Clint Eastwood's adaptation of the novel by the same name, resulted in novelist Craig Thomas writing additional stories about Mitchell Gant, it didn't lead to any other film adaptations.
The Russian adventure film Mongol was originally planned as a trilogy depicting the rise and fall of Genghis Khan. After difficulties on the first film, production on the sequels were stalled. A brief glimmer of hope occurred when it was announced that the sequels would become one large-scale film but production was canceled again in late 2010.
The film Devil was intended to be the beginning of a new anthology series called "The Night Chronicles" based on stories by M. Night Shyamalan. The film even has the number one showed after the label's logo. However, its disappointing box office combined with Shyamalan's Hatedom among audiences (the film, not directed by him, had mixed reviews) led future installments to be canceled.
Subverted, after a number of years, with Dario Argento's Three Mothers trilogy. Suspiria was produced in 1977, and the sequel, Inferno, followed in 1980. The third film was to have immediately followed Inferno but wound up in Development Hell due to Inferno’s delayed release and mixed critical response in the United States. The trilogy was finally completed with Mother of Tears in 2007.
The Punisher is a unique example, as different filmmakers have tried (to date) three times to start a series, and in all three cases have failed. The Punisher (1989) starred Dolph Lundgren as Frank Castle and focused heavily on the Yakuza, and went Direct-to-Video in the States. The Punisher (2004) reboot starred Thomas Jane as Castle, and adapted the "Welcome Back, Frank" storyline, but was panned by reviewers who said it was boring, and a sequel hook (where Frank intends to drive to New York) never panned out. Although it has become a cult favorite. The series was rebooted once again with Punisher: War Zone (part of the then newly-launched Marvel Knights film franchise) an intended sequel that became a second reboot, and cast Ray Stevenson as a much more gritty, morose version of the character — with plenty of nods to the comics and R-rated violence to boot. War Zone received middling reviews and bombed at the theaters, scuttling any plans for future installments. In October 2011, Fox announced that it would try to adapt the franchise for a television series, which ended up going nowhere and got shelved a year later. In the end, the rights to the character ended up reverting back to Marvel. It remains to be seen what Marvel plans to do with the Punisher.
In his review of Nintendo Power, The Angry Video Game Nerd notes a contest to appear as an extra in The Mask 2; the 1994 laserdisc commentary with director Chuck Russell (ported over to the DVD releases) also mentions plans for a sequel. But because star Jim Carrey decided to move on, no sequel was made until Son of the Mask over a decade later, and it has only vague connections to the original.
Even Nintendo Power noted the lack of sequel in its final issue with an apology to the winner of that contest.
The 1996 film adaption of The Phantom, starring Billy Zane, was to have been followed by two sequels. Instead, it under-performed at the box office and no further films were made, despite subsequent redemption through rental sales.
Interview with the Vampire is a curious example that did well on the box office. Notice that the complete title of the film was Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles. Queen of the Damned, a sequel of sorts, was eventually made, but several years too late and made by different people (including the not-Tom Cruise actor Stuart Townsend as Lestat).
Interestingly, both films enjoyed initial opposition from Anne Rice (the author of the original novels) until she actually met the lead actors and changed her mind.
1994's The Shadow movie was intended to be the beginning of a franchise, but the movie bombed at the box office.
In 2007, Kevin Costner talked about wanting to do two sequels to Mr. Brooks. but despite a decent box office performance, the sequels never went past talks.
The A-Team seems like the ideal start of a franchise. It's a big budget action blockbuster based off of a silly tv show with likable characters. However, the film performed slightly below box office expectations (budget was $110 million, the film made $170 million). The 4 main actors and director Joe Carnahan all expressed interest in making a sequel but concluded that the film ultimately didn't make enough revenue.
Not everyone knows this, but Vincent Vega (John Travolta) in Pulp Fiction and Mr. Blonde/Vic Vega (Michael Madsen) in Reservoir Dogs are actually brothers and the films are set in the same universe. There was originally a plan for a film about the two brothers but this project ultimately never took off. The film can't be made now since both brothers were killed in their movies so the film would have to be a prequel and the actors look far older now.
The 1994 remake of The Getaway was planned to become a series of movies focused around their characters but the film's failure led to the cancellation of future installments.
The box office failure of 2013's Beautiful Creatures doomed any chances of seeing the three other books in the series being adapted into sequels. Fans wouldn't have cared due to not liking how executives handled the film.
The Host was originally intended to be the first of a trilogy, but the film's poor box office intake and the next novel's nonexistence have left the prospects of a sequel distinctly murky.
The Russian film Asiris Nuna is the live-action adaptation of Today, Mom!, the first of the Island Rus' trilogy by Sergey Lukyanenko. While many fans of Lukyanenko would like to see the other two books turned into movies, it doesn't appear that this will happen in the near future. The additional difficulty comes from the second novel having an entirely different set of characters with the Sibling Team from the first book only coming back in the third novel.
Aside from the aforementioned The Great Mouse Detective, other Sherlock Holmes-based or inspired films made from 1959 to 1988 which either stood as attempts at franchises or hinted at sequels but did not produce any include Young Sherlock Holmes, the Hammer Studios Hound of the Baskervilles, and A Study in Terror. No Sherlock Holmes film reached U.S. theaters from 1989 to most of 2009.
Bear Island announced an adaptation of Goodbye California, another Alistair Maclean novel, in its credits.
The makers of Freddie The Frog had planned to make it a franchise but the financial failure of the first movie stopped that from happening.
Author/screenwriter Anthony Horowitz attempted to turn his successful Alex Rider novels into a blockbuster franchise, the starting point being Stormbreaker. Unfortunately, the film's poor box office take prevented this from happening. Horowitz has since then admitted that bringing the spy teen to the screen was a “mistake”.
It seems that the film version of The Mortal Instruments may become one of these after performing poorer than expected at the box office, with production shut down indefinitely on the sequel only a week before it was supposed to start. It is supposedly only a delay requested by the author herself, who was not pleased with the script for the next movie and asked it to be rewritten, but there's been a noticeable lack of any news on the project since then.
Plans were made for an Ender’s Game sequel, but instead of being the start of a new film franchise, the film adaptation could end up serving as a prime example of why creators of potential franchises should watch their mouths in the future.
Movie (and TV special/miniseries) adapations of The Chronicles of Narnia series tend to fizzle out long before making it through all seven books. The 80s BBC miniseries got through four books, and the Disney-Walden films barely made it through three. See the Narnia page for more adaptations of just the first book.
Walt Disney intended for Fantasia to be rereleased every year with some new segments. Instead, Fantasia became a Box Office Bomb, and unused segments ended up being released as standalone shorts. Sixty years later, Walt Disney's nephew Roy tried to resurrect the dream project with Fantasia 2000; once again, segments created for a never-finished sequel were released as standalone shorts.
The 2014 movie adaptation of Vampire Academy tanked massively, moreso than any other young adult adaptation in recent years. It never even reached 10 million, killing any chances of further installments, though the book series consists of six parts.
Live Action TV
Saban's Masked Rider, an Americanized adaptation of Kamen Rider Black RX and one of several Saban projects hastily compiled to cash in on the success of Power Rangers. The result was so painfully homogenised that Kamen Rider creator Shotaro Ishinomori forbid any more American adaptations of his work. This ban would persist until 2009, when Kamen Rider Dragon Knight was developed as a series much closer in spirit to the original source.
After having a semi-successful series in the seventies, there have been multiple attempts to adapt the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series onto the screen, often as a TV series. Both had a limited 13-episode Canadian adaptation in 1995, but both were quickly cancelled (many feel the biggest factor working against them was the half-hour format, which just doesn't give enough space to set up a good mystery.) This happened to Nancy again in 2002, with a made-for-TV movie that would function as a backdoor pilot if ratings were good enough. It wasn't, and after the flop of the 2007 Nancy Drew movie starting Emma Roberts, it might be safe to say that live-action adaptations of both series are pretty much dead in the water for the foreseeable future.
In 2008, the BBC released a series of drama pilots all at once with the intention of choosing the most popular one to make into a full-length series. This led to several instances of the trope:
The Things I Haven't Told You, a mystery drama. It was supposed to, unsurprisingly, contain lots of secrets and stuff that would be released throughout the show's entire prospective run. As an episode in its own right, it made very little sense, but the viewers that found it compelling were very disappointed (not to mention confused/angry/frustrated) when Being Human was made into a series instead.
Phoo Action, a futuristic comedy about a mismatched crime-fighting duo trying to stop mutant terrorists from turning Princes William and Harry into mutants. It was commissioned for a series and a franchise planned around it (it was already based on an existing comic strip), but cancelled before shooting began when the BBC decided the show wasn't going to achieve its "creative ambitions."
Dis/Connected, about a group of high schoolers discovering that each played a role in a classmate's suicide. Initially touted as a rival to Skins and ambitious talk about its future, but its ratings were too low to justify a full series.
Similar to the above, in 2010 the BBC aired another pilot called Lizzie and Sarah about two abused wives who go on a murder spree. It was to have been the last of six stand-alone TV movies in a planned series, with a possible second series to follow, and expected to be a hit Black Comedy following in the footsteps of shows like Nighty Night (whose star, Julia Davis, wrote and performed in Lizzie and Sarah.) It aired in a very poor time slot and was ultimately not commissioned, despite complaints from fans and support from other comedians such as Simon Pegg.
The 2002 made-for-TV version of Carrie was meant to lead into a series on NBC, in which Carrie, having been Spared by the Adaptation, heads to Florida to search for others like her. Low ratings for the film meant that the series was never made.
Mid-to-late '90s hip hop supergroup The Firm — consisting of Nas, Foxy Brown, AZ, and Cormega (who was later ousted and replaced with Nature) — was hyped as one of the hottest new groups in hip-hop after their formation, appearance on Nas' It Was Written album, and signing to Dr. Dre's record label. In 1997, they released their debut album... which got such a lackluster reception by both consumers and critics that any interest in more music from the group was nixed, and they went their separate ways the year after. While Brown has mentioned that there have been discussions of The Firm reuniting, the project seems to be an Old Shame for nearly everyone involved.
Arguably this could be a case of Critical Dissonance, with a touch of Hype Backlash. At the time, Nas, Foxy Brown, and AZ weren't that popular outside of New York and were never really heavy sellers to begin with. Basically they were a precursor to another hip-hop supergroup by the name of Slaughter House. Essentially they only appealed to the most hardcore hip-hop fanbase.
This was not the first time a band called The Firm had failed to proceed; in the mid '80s, Jimmy Page formed a miniature supergroup with himself on guitar, and Paul Rodgers, formerly of Free and Bad Company, on vocals. The original plan was to fill the band out with former Yes percussionist Bill Bruford, plus ubiquitous 80s fretless bassist Pino Palladino, but this didn't pan out. Despite being Jimmy Page's first band project since Led Zeppelin, the group's debut album met with lackluster reviews and poor sales. Surprisingly there was a second album — shades of Tin Machine — after which the group disbanded.
In 1993 The Sisters Of Mercy released Greatest Hits Volume 1: A Slight Case of Overbombing. It was the last album they released.
ABBA's compilation The Singles: The First Ten Years has an ironic title. After promoting the two newly-recorded singles, they took a break from which they never regrouped, making it their final release before (in effect) splitting.
George Michael failed to release a followup to his Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 album of 1990.
The full title of Michael Jackson's 1995 Distinct Double Album was HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. There never was a Book II, though there was Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix in 1997 (which was mostly remixes), not to mention HIStory on Film:VolumeII (which was music videos).
'80s band Re-Flex is best known for their single of The Politics of Dancing from their one and only album of the same name. The single How Much Longer? released in 1985 was labled "From the forthcoming album Humanication". The album never forthcame due to Executive Meddling.
In 1996, The Beach Boys released Stars and Stripes, Vol. 1, an album featuring them singing re-recordings of their hits as duets with Country Music stars. After the album was ripped apart by critics, any future installments were scrapped.
David Bowie's 1996 concept album 1. Outside was planned to be the first of a 3-album set. However, his next album was the unrelated drum-and-bass-influenced excursion Earthling, and as of 2013 no follow-up has been released.
2008 saw the release of OMFGG – Original Music Featured on Gossip Girl No. 1. By the time the series ended four years later, there was still no sign of No. 2 (compare to One Tree Hill racking up four albums and Grey's Anatomy having five).
Capcom's Breakshot was advertised as the first in the "Capcom Classic" series, a line of low-cost pinballs with "classic-style" gameplay to appeal to all players. Needless to say, this is the only game in the series.
The Judge Dredd pinball was the debut of "Supergame", where for an extra credit, players could play the table with extra modes and expanded rules, including exclusive multiball modes. No other pinball has used the feature.
Safe Cracker was advertised as the first "Token-Pin" game, which would dispense tokens for winning that could be used for various things, such as prizes or a special game mode. No other game in the line has been produced.
Flipper Football was Capcom Pinball's first "Interplay Display" pinball game; the dot-matrix display was mounted in the cabinet, and would respond when the player struck targets underneath it. Capcom closed its pinball division soon after the game was released, and no other "Interplay Display" games were made.
Steve Ritchie's Hyperball married a Pinball cabinet with a Shoot 'em Up, challenging players to fire up to 250 balls a minute against an army of attacking lightning bolts. Despite plans to product up to 50,000 games, only 5,000 were made and sold, and the idea was neveer revisited.
XIII, based on the first five volumes of the European comic book series, ends with a Cliff Hanger. Poor sales, however, erased hopes of a game continuation of the story. A TV miniseries based on the comic and the game was later produced staring Val Kilmer and Stephen Dorff, which suffered a similar fate as the game it was based on. It was resurrected a second time as XIII: The Series in 2011 by a Canadian company. The TV series is a direct continuation of the miniseries's plot, though none of the miniseries actors (especially Kilmer and Dorff) reprise their roles. It burned X-Play, which had done a single preview episode devoted to the game based on that show's editorial staff and Adam Sessler's excitement over the game's cel-shaded graphics and underlying story. When it turned out to be a run-of-the-mill "3... out of 5" shooter featuring bored voice acting by David Duchovny, the show wouldn't do a single game preview episode for another five years. Only much later, a sequel (XIII-2) was made for mobile phones and developed by Gameloft.
Haven: Call of the King for the PlayStation 2 was supposed to be the first installment in a revolutionary video game trilogy that would defy all genres. What was actually released was mediocre: while it did mix together a lot of genres (action, platforming, RPG, driving) as promised, it didn't do any of them particularly well. The lackluster sales killed the planned trilogy at the first game, whose planned Xbox and Nintendo GameCube ports were also canceled.
Advent Rising was intended to be a trilogy on consoles with a spin-off for the PSP. The poor reception of the original game put a stop to any further prospects, as well as the million-dollar contest promoting it.
Shadow Complex, on which Empire was based, was released on Xbox LIVE Arcade to glowing reviews. Of course, in order to sell it to people without having a massive backlash strike out, the developers had to entirely ignore the novel Card had written to promote it.
Beyond Good & Evil was a commercial bomb, and ruined any chances of a sequel. It was well-received by critics and has a devoted cult following, however. Several years later Ubisoft has apparently started production on one, and as of 2013 it looks like it's finally going to happen.
Kya Dark Lineage flopped, partially due to a dumb marketing campaign ("She's a whole lotta hurt in a belly shirt"), and the sequel hinted at in the ending never materialized.
Anachronox is an interesting case, because the Sequel Hook at the end, which will probably never be followed-up on, wasn't originally planned to be one. It was supposed to be the halfway point of the game, but due to a whole slew of problems, they ended up having to end the game there.
Action 52 had a $199 price tag (in 1991 for a NES game), nearly unplayable games, weak concept, and was horribly and seriously bug-infested, yet for some impossible-to-fathom reason, Active Enterprises believed that its featured title Cheetahmen (which shared many flaws with the other games on the cartridge, including not having an ending) was going to be a huge breakout hit. Plans were made for a CheetahmenSaturday morning cartoon, action figures, and of course a sequel. Their hopes turned out to be waaay premature; the sequel never emerged except as an unfinished, unplayable beta.
The commercial failure of action RPG Too Human not only killed Silicon Knights' hopes of a trilogy, but also any hopes of an Eternal Darkness followup. The studio has now gone under, making it even less likely that these games will ever get sequels. Shadow of the Eternals, a Spiritual Successor to Eternal Darkness, was in the works, but its ill-fated Kickstarter campaign doesn't bode well.
Perhaps putting overt franchise aspirations in the title of the 1988 game Sentinel Worlds I: Future Magic was an act of hubris. Electronic Arts never made a sequel for this interesting proto-Mass Effect game, though 1990's Hard Nova was a Spiritual Successor.
Electronic Arts' Auto Destruct ends with the Big Bad escaping in an emergency submarine after you shoot down his helicopter. While not bad by any means, the game was rather obscure and didn't sell well, so no sequel was made.
P.N.03 sold barely 20,000 copies, so Capcom aborted the franchise.
Brute Force was a original Xbox exclusive which was hyped as doing to third-person shooters what Halo did to console first-person shooters, and just like Halo, was promoted with a prequel novel that expended on the backstory. However, the final version didn't quite live up to the hype and thus Brute Force never became the multimedia juggernaut Halo is. There were rumors of a sequel for the Xbox 360, but Digital Anvil's death in 2006 ensures that it will never happen.
Mitsumete Knight is a sad case of this. After the surprise and spectacular success of Tokimeki Memorial: Forever With You, Konami wanted to keep the momentum and create another similar Dating SimCash Cow Franchise. Mitsumete Knight was thus planned as such, and lots of efforts were put in it: co-created by Konami and Red Entertainment (the other Dating Sim leader of the time, creator of Sakura Taisen), a spectacular voice cast, deep storyline, solid gameplay, a line of goods, favourable critics, lots of built hype one year before the game's actual release in March 1998 via a Radio Drama and previews... Only to meet average-ish good sales, not the expected killer profit (partially due to the public's vaning interest in Dating Sims which started around that time). Realizing this, and with Tokimeki Memorial 2 around the corner, Konami canned the franchise one year later in 1999.
Donald In Maui Mallard had a sequel planned and was made to test the waters for this detective/ninja incarnation of Donald Duck, with even ideas for an animated series. Due to coming at the end of the 16-bit consoles' lifespan and some flawed marketing (Donald's name was dropped from any promotional material), the game bombed and all plans were scrapped.
Si N Episodes: Emergence debuted to weak sales and some critical acclaim (for a series that hadn't seen an installment in more than a decade). Plans were made to have several more episodes, and a teaser was released at the end of Emergence that teased plot points from upcoming installments. Then the game's production company, Ritual Entertainment, was sold to a casual game developer, and production was canned — meaning that you'll never get to see any of the last eight(!) installments.
The Rising Sun installment of Medal of Honor was originally going to be the first of a series that would have followed a group of brothers through the Pacific War fighting a secret cabal of the Japanese high command. However, it flopped. It was somewhat resolved later on with somebody mentioning that one of the brothers had been planning POW rescues (one of them was in Japanese hands at the end of the game), but we never got to see those rescues.
Loom, a 1990 adventure game made by LucasArts. The game was well received, sold well and was part of a planned trilogy. However, the game's makers had other commitments and didn't want to work on the sequels.
Alpha Protocol was intended by publisher Sega to become part of a greater series. The poor sales killed that, but as Obsidian still maintains all the rights, it's possible if a particularly optimistic publisher comes along.
Nightshade Part 1: The Claws of Sutekh was not followed by a Part 2.
There were two attempts by Capcom at making a Captain Commando franchise (Section Z and, unsurprisingly, Captain Commando), but neither game took off quite as well as expected.
The Vin Diesel vehicle Wheelman was supposed to lead up to a film, with the game setting up the backstory and the characters. However, the game's tepid critical and commercial performance very likely scrapped those plans.
The instructions and advertising for the ZX Spectrum text adventure Merlock the Mede describe the two games on the tape as the first of a set of eight — and a player who solved all eight could win a digital watch. The first two received far from glowing reviews, and nothing was ever seen of the other six.
The Blade Kitten video game ends on a cliffhanger (and is advertised as a "Part 1" on its title screen) that is unlikely to be resolved, partly due to Krome Studios shutting down shortly after going into administration. Krome Studios did have part 2 done, but Atari didn't want to release part 2 due to poor sales of part 1. When Atari moved out of the video game market, the developer had to wait awhile before the rights could revert before re-releasing part 2.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was designed as a prologue to a multimedia franchise centred upon a planned MMORPG with the Working TitleProject Copernicus. Unfortunately, catastrophic financial shenanigans ensued, revolving around an ill-advised government loan for $75 million (with wildly-unrealistic repayment terms) and incredible mismanagement on behalf of developer 38 Studios. The resulting monetary implosion meant the game needed to sell three million copies to break even, and despite selling over one million in a few weeks, the company went under. The rights then reverted to the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, though, who have indicated an intent to sell the IP. And the game did sell well by normal, non-bankruptcy-involving standards, so it'd be a better investment than some of the other stuff on this page.
Siege of Avalon, whose developer disbanded and left the planned sequel unproduced.
The Facebook app The Agency: Covert Ops was made to help promote a spy-themed MMO that was ultimately canceled after four years of development.
World in Conflict ends with an obvious cliffhanger (the Soviets are pushed from the US mainland but the war in Europe is still raging and the Chinese fleet besieges the Pacific Coast) but it was never continued, despite the game receiving enthusiastic reviews, good sales, and even an Expansion Pack. The main reason was that the developers' previous owner Activision sold them to Ubisoft, who, in turn, shifted their priorities from the RTS genre to action games.
Journey: The Quest Begins, befitting its title, ended with a Sequel Hook. It was the very last game developed by Infocom, and no sequel was ever made.
Metal Arms: Glitch in the System by Swingin' Ape Studios received fairly decent reviews and had a clear Sequel Hook at the end, so it was no surprise that the developers had hoped for sequels. There was a lot of work done towards a Metal Arms 2, but Swingin' Ape Studios was purchased by Blizzard in 2005 and the neither the franchise nor the work done on it have been heard from since.
BioWare promised that Sonic Chronicles would become a full series after its first installment, but for unknown reasons (nothing's been said on the matter since then), this never came to be.
Pearl Harbor Trilogy — 1941: Red Sun Rising was meant to be released as the first of a trio of World War II-themed WiiWareFlight Sims (or more accurately, the PC game Attack on Pearl Harbor chopped up in three parts) but poor sales have prevented the rest of the series from seeing the light of day.
Illbleed has vague hints toward a sequel. Its developer closed down in 2002, and though the company's founder Shinya Nishigaki had hopes of resurrecting it, he died suddenly two years later.
The Starfire Soccer Challenge was intended to spin off a third series of Purple Moon games and was heavily promoted by girls' sports organizations, but had no sequel. What might have been had the company not gone under, the world may never know.
12Riven was originally intended to be the first in what would have been the Integral series (a spinoff of the Infinity series), but a variety of factors, including the company's bankruptcy, the main writer's departure, and less than stellar sales ensured that didn't happen.
In 1995, Konami introduced its "Ultra Sports" series of Arcade Games, which came in special cocktail cabinets with trackball controls for two players. The first two games, Five A Side Soccer and Ultra Hockey, were the only ones released; at least two more were planned.
Cocoron had a sequel, or possibly a remake, developed for the PC Engine called PC Cocoron, which was apparently finished but never released.
Ride to Hell originally started development in 2008, then was cancelled, then restarted and intended to be a series of three games - one on retail discs, one as a downloadable Xbox LIVE Arcade/Play Station Network game, and one on smartphones. Only the retail product, Ride To Hell Retribution was released, receiving immense backlash from all corners. Unsurprisingly, neither Deep Silver nor Eutechnyx made a peep about the other two games, Beatdown and Route 666, suggesting that they were unceremoniously cancelled.
Wars and Warriors: Joan of Arc was a PC game released in 2004 to mixed reviews. There were plans on making a Xbox port as well as sequels, none of which ever left the drawing board.
Alone in the Dark was supposed to be the first game in the "Virtual Dreams" (as one can read on the original French boxart) series of standalone titles which shared the same engine. No more were made and the label was immediately discontinued.
A title called Time Gate - Knight's Chase was supposed to be the "real" Alone in the Dark 4, and the beginning of a new trilogy of games under the "Time Gate" label based upon time traveling and ancient Egyptian mythology. Since the Alone in the Dark engine was already dated at that time, plans to keep the trilogy going were cancelled and "Knight's Chase" remained a standalone title.
The very short lived Van Beuren StudiosFelix the Cat shorts, an attempt to revive the franchise after the original theatrical cartoons fell to the wayside due to multiple factors (including the death of his owner Pat Sullivan and the latest efforts absolutely paling in comparison to the new Mickey Mouse sound films, and the fact that Felix still had a popular newspaper comic running) only lasted for three shorts (with a fourth one never getting past the story stage) due to Van Beuren Studios abruptly going belly-up when RKO negated their contract in favor of distributing Disneyshorts.
After the massive success of the Disney Princess crossover franchise, Disney attempted to do the same thing with its popular male heroes in the mid 2000s. The result was the Disney Heroes franchise, whose lineup consisted of Aladdin, King Arthur, Hercules, Peter Pan, Robin Hood and Tarzan. Poor sales ended the franchise pretty quickly and Disney abandoned using their own characters for boy-centric franchise merchandise, having much more success later on with boy-centric merchandise based on acquired franchises like Cars, Marvel Comics and Star Wars.