Has Jerry Bruckheimer lost the ability to turn in money-churning blockbuster after money-churning blockbuster? That's the theory posited in a fascinating piece on The Hollywood Reporter today, which points to a string of four successive flops from the uber-producer behind such ever-green franchises as Pirates of the Caribbean, National Treasure and Bad Boys.

But this past weekend's poor performance for The Sorcerer's Apprentice – which Disney had hoped would start another franchise printing press of cash – hasn't helped the producer. We reported way back in November 2005 that Disney were signing Bruckheimer into a 5-year deal that was the largest in its history. If that deal is coming to an end, it stands to reason that a string of flops on his recent CV may not help his chances of renewing it at that same sort of scale.
As well as Sorcerer's, Disney won't have been thrilled with the grosses for Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, G-Force or Confessions of a Shopaholic. New instalments for National Treasure and Pirates, the latter filming now in Hawaii, will ensure his current franchises continue to generate money for the studio, but it's likely he'll have to work harder to make anything new. One such project, Killing Rommel, was put into turnaround last month.

"We have an incredible relationship with one of Hollywood's most prolific producers in Jerry Bruckheimer," Sean Bailey, Disney's film production president, is quoted as saying. "Together, we've created some of the most recognizable and successful live-action titles in recent years."

But when executives are delivering quotes to the press about their producers, alarm bells tend to ring, and the article also quotes an unnamed source at the company who puts things more bluntly: "No producer can have four flops and have there be no repercussions."

It raises an intriguing point about Hollywood uber-producers like Bruckheimer: the more success they see with big, expensive spectacle movies, the more inclined they are to turn that into a formula for future franchises. But perhaps what made Pirates and National Treasure such audience winners was that they held plenty of surprises for audiences.

If we want more of the same, we'll take the sequels, with characters we know and love. But if you're creating a new franchise to sap our hard-earned bucks, don't we deserve an element of the unexpected?