Why Do They Produce Franchise Movies?
Franchising- the concept of building a brand that speaks to an audience and then scaling it as far as possible isn't just for house cleaning and hamburgers, it's also a mainstay of Hollywood. There have a been several movie "franchises" that have become iconic billion-dollar blockbusters, forging a spot for themselves in the social zeitgeist. According to a Newsweek article, 49 of the 50 highest grossing movies of all time were a part of a movie franchise. Guess what movie made the list without being a part of a franchise? Answer to come later on.
So, why do so many movies these days belong to franchises? It's simple, follow the cash flows. Investors know that a movie with brand recognition is more likely to succeed than a standalone film. Just like a McDonalds enters a new market with brand recognition and scale and a mom and pop has to build such recognition and scale, non-franchised movies have to work that much harder for their buck. That doesn't mean franchised movies are always successful. Toofab.com put together a list of some notable recent box-office failures such as Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald, The Predator, and Solo: A Start Wars Story.
Industry expert, Jane Hastings, was quoted as saying "regardless, if a franchise is new, if it’s good, if it’s quality, it will work… So, we’re in good shape. Why? Because people always want to be entertained." That same year, all five of the top five movies were franchised movies. Now, one of them was Black Panther. Yes, it's a new series, but it falls within the hyper-successful Marvel universe. The Marvel Cinematic Universe began with Iron Man in 2008 at a time when Marvel was in a financial bind. We're now 21 movies into the Universe, with no sight of a finality anywhere. Considering they've pulled in a sum $17.5 billion so far, it's unlikely they'll stop. This doesn't even include the highly successful X-Men universe, also owned by Marvel Comics. X-Men have put out 11 films and brought in nearly $6 billion. So, between the two universes, there's well over $23 billion in revenue. To put that in perspective, the nominal Gross Domestic Product of Honduras is around $23 billion. They have a population of nearly ten million people!
Why Do We Watch Franchise Movies?
Say you and I are on a road trip. Hours of driving into the country and we get hungry. We pull into a town we've never been in and we want a place that's quick, affordable, and has clean bathrooms. There's two choices, Pete's Burgers and McDonalds. Which one are we going to pick? Well, sometimes you may feel adventurous, but most of the time, you're going to go with the franchised restaurant. You're familiar with the menu, you're familiar with their business. There's a sense of security there, and you know what, maybe you like their food. At the very least, you have an expectation that the food and bathrooms are going to be of a certain quality.
Safety in Franchises
Same goes for franchised movies. Whether it's James Bond, Harry Potter, Star Wars, or so on, you have a certain expectation for the quality that you'll be getting. You know that they've put a large production investment in the movie. You know that they'll have all-star casts that can deliver the script. You know the special effects will be dazzling. You also know that you liked the last one and that there's a good chance you'll like this one. In short, it's a safe bet. Sometimes you'll feel adventurous and go see the hard hitting independent drama like Manchester by the Sea, but you're not sure what you're going to get. Oh, and by the way, that Top 50 movie that wasn't a part of a franchise? Titanic.
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