Thursday, March 7, 2013

Franchises: The Bigger They Are...

Years from now, when film scholars look back at the past decade, and most likely a good chunk of the next, the defining feature of modern Hollywood filmmaking is going to be the franchise. People like franchises, especially the "internet geek" archetype, and without a doubt they have been massively successful. If you look at the top box office hits of all time the majority of those movies (not adjusted for inflation) are franchise films, often the second or third installment. Last year virtually all of the major money makers were part of a franchise (The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, The Hobbit...) and if this year's releases are any indication we can probably safely say that once again these movies will come out on top.

The franchise is pretty much a can't lose situation. For those who don't know, a franchise film basically means a movie that is part of a larger whole. When you buy a ticket to see Thor or Captain America, you're not buying a ticket to just see the movie. No, you are buying it for the property, in this case the Marvel superhero roster. These aren't standalone movies, these are just one part in a web of films, comics, toys, websites, books, TV shows, clothing, iPhone apps, and whatever else the studio can slap Chris Hemsworth's face on. Even if a movie doesn't do very well, the studios can still make their money back tenfold based on all the other properties people buy. That's why Pixar's Cars can make a lot less at the box office then it's counterparts but still get a sequel because lots of people bought Mater backpacks at Wal-Mart.

The most famous franchise, of course, is Star Wars. George Lucas is in fact the main mastermind behind this filmmaking model, with both Star Wars and Indiana Jones being the prototypes to what we see today. Except now, thanks in a large part to the internet and the higher rate of media consumption, it's not just one or two trilogies that get to roll out the big bucks, but literally dozens of properties. However, as big and massive as these are, I personally don't see how the industry can possibly keep up this momentum for much longer.