The answer, of course, is the relatively low risk associated with playing out another thread on a spool that's already available. The existing fan-base from an original incarnation provides easier pickings for a marketer, it is thought, since there will be less need to persuade folks of the underlying value of a franchise. As a result, we get G.I. Joe not as a rugged leader in a team of skilled soldiers, but rather (to quote GeekDad): "Tough Action Guys in Power Suits Against Bad Guys with Nanotechnology". Not a good fit, even with the 1980s incarnation of Joe.
When the formula of existing fan base plus new creative works, it can be thrilling. Let's put "The Dark Knight" into this bucket. More frequently, though, the vision falls short of expectations. Sequels run a much greater risk of this shortfall. Let's put "Batman & Robin" into this other bucket.
The same trap applies to music, a market rife with remakes. Although I might prefer Pseudo Echo's remake of "Funkytown" to the original, that makes me the exception. More often, the telltale sign of an artist lack of enduring creativity is the issuance of remakes, riding on the momentum of an earlier hit to extend his or her career by that much longer.
This strategy can work in a category like movies, where a bait and switch proposition is applied to what is a one-time use product. Saw it, hated it, but then again, how many of us actually go back to the cinema for a second viewing - even for films we like? We consumers don't tend to apply brand loyalty discretion to the studios marketing the films. No, we focus on the title, with maybe some credence given to the director or actors.
This strategy most certainly does not work for a business that relies on on-going positive customer experience. To stretch the point, imagine Crest having originally put out toothpaste that tasted terrible or stained teeth? Bada-bing! End of that brand. Persuading some folks to the first purchase is possible, even with a bad proposition. The power of word of mouth and zero repeat purchase "significantly limits growth prospects", so to speak.
So why would studio execs give the green light to such projects? Because sometimes the known bad movie will still cover costs, whereas the unknown risk could flop. If someone is rewarded for failure avoidance versus pursuit of success, the decisions make sense.
All this brings several questions to mind: How are you rewarded? How are you driving your business? And, while we're at it, what if someone actually tried to make a film studio an enduring mark of quality in consumers' eyes? What might that vision look like?