Franchise Fatigue: Hollywood’s Newest ‘F’ Word


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What Film's Latest Trend Means For Brands

With June nearly at a close movie goers and producers are in the midst of the summer blockbuster rush, however, while the forecast for LA may say there’s nothing but sunshine, those in the film industry can sense something brewing in the horizon…

While in the past summer blockbusters have been regarded as prime-time for theater goers, boasting the loudest, funniest, and most exciting films of the year, slowly there has been a change in the tide. Original ideas now make way instead for sequels and remakes, and it’s taking a toll on the brands who once flourished during this season.  In this blog, Hollywood Branded will explore Hollywood’s newest ‘F’ word – Franchise Fatigue – a phenomenon grappling the film industry, and investigate how brands can navigate these new waters…

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Cinematic Carbon Copies 

It doesn’t take a meteorologist to sense a shift in the cinematic climate, or notice the same movie titles making their rounds in the previews, or on posters in theater lobbies. The days of stand-alone films have long since passed, and Hollywood, as well as movie goers, have now entered the age of Franchise Filmmaking – otherwise known as, the Age of Sequels.

The summer of sequels started May 5th with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2, riding success of the first film released in 2014 in hopes of culminating the same high-grossing numbers. After raking in over $773+MM in 2014, Guardians set their sights on both a larger budget, and larger reach, bringing in $853+MM worldwide todate – nearly $100MM more than the first.

A third installment in Marvel’s ‘phase four’ of the cinematic universe is already on the horizon as writer/director James Gunn has already begun hinting to possible plot points and returning characters just weeks after the sequel’s release.

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Next we saw Johnny Depp reprise his role of the lovable drunkard Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, released on May 26th. The fifth installment has since brought in $683+MM worldwide, also notably the lowest grossing total to date for the franchise, which sadly is an all too familiar tune many franchises have noticed both in the past and this summer.

Another blockbuster hitting the fifth movie mark this summer is Transformers: The Last Knight, which opened June 21st, and is already following the downward trend Pirates also saw with a projected $70MM five-day opening at 3,800 theaters domestically – the lowest numbers of the franchise to date. However, Optimus Prime and Co. haven’t lost faith in international markets, looking at an estimated $237.5-$270MM opening overseas, rivaling Pirates who also performed well in similar markets.


While some franchises have stumbled this summer, including the sequel/prequel Alien: Covenant, and Universal Pictures The Mummy (the first installment of their monster movie series), others such as Fate of the Furious, and the upcoming War for the Planet of the Apes, have both been poised for brighter debuts.

Fate of the Furious marks the eighth movie in The Fast and the Furious franchise, breaking the $1+ billion-dollar mark in the worldwide box office, but still only ranks as the third highest grossing movie in the series – the top earner being Furious 7 released in 2015. After the wide success of Fate of the Furious, movie numbers nine and ten are both confirmed for release in 2019 and 2021 respectively.

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Opening July 14th, War for the Planet of the Apes hopes to surpass it's previous gross total of $710MM worldwide earned by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes back in 2014, and holds the best chance in doing so as it remains highly anticipated by critics and fans alike. With the previous two films certifiably fresh on Rotten Tomatos, 20th Century Fox aims to please with the third installment, rounding out the successful trilogy on a high note.

However, keeping true to the franchise trend, Apes is not the only trilogy coming to a seeming end this summer, as both Cars 3 and Despicable Me 3 are both on the slate.

Cars 3 sped into theaters June 16th, earning $91+MM worldwide, despite having the lowest opening weekend of the trilogy - bringing in $53+MM in domestic sales, nearly $10MM less than Cars 2 in 2011. Future projections remain less than enthusiastic about Pixar's latest film, and as bigger movies roll into theaters in the following weeks, Cars 3 will not be riding lightning to huge box office success this time around.

And with Despicable Me 3 in the wings for its June 30th release, more of the same is sure to follow.


Going For A Ride... Again, And Again

For every movie released it seems as though studio executives are chomping at the bit to expand the story line into a franchise, eager to build off success and milk the characters, plot lines, and audiences for all their worth.

But really, is it any surprise?

Tent pole franchises such as The Fast and the Furious, or Transformers bring in major amounts of money, and are guaranteed big audiences through their following, especially with international markets holding larger and larger influence. Five movies, and eight movies later studios are continuing to pump them out one after the other, even expanding to cinematic universes as a means of making the most amount of money possible with the least amount of risk involved.

Plus, franchise films offer a great platform for brands to build promotions from.

The shift from stand alone films to franchise based is primarily in part to studio's new focus on over seas markets, and their biggest player: China. As LA Times author Ryan Faughnder stated in his article on a similar topic, "Though The Fate of the Furious, scored far less business in the U.S. and Canada than 2015’s Furious 7, countries including China pushed the movie past the $1-billion worldwide box-office mark," a similar trend that Transformers: Age of Extinction also saw in 2014, and is expected to repeat this summer.

A sign of the times, undoubtedly.

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Battle Of The Brands

What does this new age of cinema mean for brands, then?

Well, going by the numbers alone brand integrations and product placement in these tent poles films have increased over the years, and will continue to do so. Mounting success of franchises means more eyes on the screen around the world, and with the shift of focus now aimed at international markets, these films having higher success rates over seas with audiences, expanding the brands reach.

However, franchises can also be a double-edged sword, after signing on with brand integrations from the get go, those brands are given the royal treatment and own the movie, making little room for others to gain the same amount of influence or exposure. Dodge and The Fast and the Furious serves as a prime example of this, just as Camaro and Transformers do. Capitalization on tent pole branding is a tricky business from the start, and hard to achieve once the ship has begun to sail - especially for the previously mentioned franchises whom span over a decade of content.

Ready To Get Your Brand On The Big Screen?

For more information on franchises, and the newest film expansion trend, read our blog on why cinematic universe storylines are increasingly popular for studios and brands.

Now that you know the ins and outs of franchises, are you ready to take those next steps? To learn more about the world of product placement, download our infographic on how product placement works below!

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