‘Film franchises are a fucking cancer for the industries.’
I read this sentence approximately 15 times a day among comments for some franchise film.
According to a large part of the internet audience, this kind of serialised productions overall hurt the industry due an oversaturation of the market, which ultimately takes away space for original films, in terms of exhibition, exposure and, consequently, production choices by the studios.
Same case is done regarding the great number of adaptations from other media forms, or even remakes. In order to capitalize to the IPs popularity, studio tend to revive old TV Series, movies or whatever else, which, in a way or another, it surely makes them easier to market.
As of now, we have a huge number of franchise alive and well, and some ready to take off immediately or in the medium term.
We could easily make a list of the still active ones:
- MonsterVerse – est. 2014, also a remake
- Pacific Rim – est. 2013, original
- DC Extended Universe – est. 2013, also an adaptation
- 21 Jump Street – est. 2012, also an adaptation and soon merging with the MIB franchise (est. 1998, also an adaptation)
- Despicable Me – est. 2010, original
- Marvel Cinematic Universe – est. 2008, also an adaptation
- Transformers – est. 2007, also an adaptation
- Pirates of the Caribbean – est. 2003, also an adaptation
- Underworld – est. 2003, original
- Ice Age – est. 2002, original
- Harry Potter – est. 2001, also an adaptation
- Fast & Furious – est. 2001, also a remake
- Resident Evil – est. 2000, also an adaptation (ended?)
- X-Men – est. 2000, also an adaptation
- Mission: Impossible – est. 1996, also an adaptation
- Toy Story – est. 1995, original
- Jurassic Park – est. 1993, also an adaptation
- Predator – est. 1987, original
- Alien – est. 1979, original
- Star Wars – est. 1977, original
- 007 – est. 1972, also an adaptation
- Star Trek – est. 1962, original
As you can see, they are a lot of movies, most also happening to be adaptations and/or remakes. And they may not be all. As I might have forgot some (I’m not perfect), also we have some upcoming films that could spark new series: Ghost In the Shell, Power Rangers, The Mummy (which may or may not be part of an already started universe), King Arthur: Legend of the Sword among the ones that obviously have an intent to start something.
Without counting that we have some franchises halted (TMNT due to the last installment poor performance, Tron, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday The 13th, Terminator, Indiana Jones, The Matrix) which could be picked back up from a moment to another.
The reason why studios keep greenlighting this movies, often from the dubious quality, and try to create some new, is simple: money.
If successfully established in one or tops two movies, the studio automatically has a property that guarantees income. Even though the marketing budget rises, having a positive between 100 and 200 million a film just from box office performance is important. On top of that, the post-release run (DVD/Blu-Ray, Netflix, VOD, TV rights) guarantees a longer source of income for the title.
While people think that money are the sole reason, the more source of income you have, the more risks you can take for future productions.
Take Warner for example: with Harry Potter and The Dark Knight trilogy making money, they could give Nolan a chance with Inception, a very alternative movie. Even Edge of Tomorrow, despite featuring Tom Cruise and being an adaptation, wasn’t really fitting in the popular movie genre.
We could say the same about Deadpool, Logan and Mad Max: Fury Road, but they were gambles taken internally other franchises.
Anyways, that doesn’t mean original films can’t say their own thing. In 2016, movies like Don’t Breath and Sausage Party showed Hollywood you don’t always need a famous IP to back you up. But again, alongside other titles such as Trainwreck and this year’s Get Out, we are still talking about R-Rated productions that are not deemed to make that much money anyways.
It’s undeniable though that stories based on something, or following up something (either before or after in the narrative timeline), took over studios simply because they more or less guarantee money. It’s not a rule, true, but, if you put enough effort in it both creatively and marketing-wise, it’s unlikely the movie is going to lose that much money.
This trend is probably not going to stop anytime soon, especially if Ghost In The Shell succeed starting once and for all the anime adaptations invasion.
Do I think is a bad thing? From a certain point, absolutely. Creativity gets stuck in the rules of source materials, and, while I firmly believe that is not easy to adapt something, it restraints ideas into the limits of an adaptation.
However, there could be a solution into this, and it was inspired by non-other than my favorite pro-wrestler at the moment, AJ Styles.
A little background: WrestleMania 33, WWE’s Superbowl, is approaching, and it’s almost sure Goldberg and Brock Lesnar, two part-time performers of 50 and 39 respectively, are going to main event the show. In case you’re not familiar with WWE calendar, an average schedule sees the wrestlers having 300+ workdays performing at least 2/3 of those days. Both Goldberg and Brock Lesnar, even though they are households names, work significantly less, but, while Brock actually is performing 10-15 nights a year and appearing 10-15 on TV, Goldberg came back after a 12+ years hiatus, appeared 6-7 times since October, wrestled 3 times so far for no more than 2 minutes, and he gets to main event the company’s most important show. Yet, they put butts in the seats.
On the other hand, AJ Style worked all around the world 16+ years non-stop to finally arrive to WWE at 38, as a full time athlete.
Among the three, the honor should expect to AJ Styles.
Yet, during an interview, AJ himself answered this way to the people who asked what he thought about two-part timers main eventing WrestleMania:
Goldberg and what Brock and him have done together, has made sure people are gonna come and watch WrestleMania. They want to see this match. And if they come to see them, they also have to come to see me. And now I will have an opportunity to impress them, while they’re there. And I will make AJ fans, or Shane fans out of them.
While I understand it’s easy to make this case for new and upcoming actor in film franchise (right Daisy Ridley?), another idea came up to me.
The idea is simple: put original movie trailers in front of franchise movies. While putting trailers in front of Fast & Furious is more expensive than say the next Woody Allen movie (sorry Woody), having new ideas present themselves in front of an audience does no harm, while undeniably helping the industry. Of course you’d have to raise the marketing budget (and I’m sure the price depends on which position you want the trailer to be played at), but some talks with exhibitors could be done.
I get that exhibitors (AMC, Regal, CineMark, etc.) want the most popular movie trailers to play. Yet it’s inconvenient for the distributors and studios to spend so much money to keep playing franchise trailers in theaters. I get the very first trailers, stil 6 to 10 months ahead from release, since they want the movie get on the audience radar (not everyone goes on the web and look for them). But when we get a month away to release, does it really matter? Billboards are all over the place, sports programming features a lot of promotion, internet ads also start promoting the movie even on very, very generalist websites. Seriously, there’s no need to put more money to play often spoiling trailers (as generally trailer 2 and 3 are) for literally the sake of it.
While I understand it’s not very likely for this to happen (since exhibitors are the first who want to make money), I think it would be a viable and fair option worth to pursue. In fact, previous original movies promoted in front of big movies (like Ex Machina, Hardcore Henry or Joel Edgerton’s The Gift) all performed well at box office (still without remotely braking any box office record).
Will it ever become a standard? I doubt it, but I’ll surely consider it if there’s an interest into changing Hollywood trends.