The Mummy: When A Franchise Launch Fails


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Over the past few years film franchises have exploded in the sense that they are becoming the true bread and butter of Hollywood. As a result, studios are each trying to develop their own franchises to compete with the massive franchises of other studios.

While it has a massive hit on its hands with the Jurassic World trilogy, Universal still doesn’t have a massive cinematic universe on the scale of something like Marvel's cinematic universe - or even Warner Bros. As a result, it has reached deep into its history in order to find one. In this blog, Hollywood Branded discusses Universal’s Dark Universe and what the first installment may mean for its future, and what happens when a franchise launch fails.

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A History Of The Mummy

Universal has long had a history with light monster-filled horror films. On paper this looked to be the making of a successful new cinematic universe for the studio. However, in reality, combining characters from a series of smaller franchises isn’t always easy, even if Marvel makes it look that way.

The first edition of what was initially known as the Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe before the announcement of the Dark Universe title in May 2017 was The Mummy, based upon perhaps one of the most popular franchises from Universal. In fact, this will be Universal’s third incarnation of the popular IP.

The first edition of The Mummy was released as part of the original Universal Monsters film series from the 1920s, 1930s, 40s and 50s:

  • 1932’s The Mummy saw Boris Karloff in the title role as Imhotep 
  • And was followed by 1940’s The Mummy’s Hand featuring Tom Tyler as Kharis
  • 1942’s The Mummy’s Tomb and 1944’s duo The Mummy’s Ghost and The Mummy’s Curse all featuring Lon Chaney Jr as Kahris and
  • 1955’s Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy featuring Eddie Parker as the title character Klaris
  • The film series was then giving a reboot in 1999 with the Steven Sommer’s directed film starring Arnold Vosloo as The Mummy Imotep and Breandan Fraser as adventurer Rick O’Connell
  • 1999’s The Mummy was followed by 2001’s The Mummy Returns and
  • 2008’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, which introduces a new Mummy, Emperor Han played by Jet Li
  • This particular incarnation of the franchise also spawned a 2002 spin off, The Scorpion King starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnston, which itself launched 3 direct to video spin offs in 2008, 2012 and 2015.
  • Leading to 2017's The Mummy with Tom Cruise.

Whew. That is A LOT of Mummy's.

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The New Mummy

While similar to the previous versions of the series, the latest version of the film attempt to start a larger cinematic universe featuring Universal’s monsters, similar to the one which existed in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, taking inspiration from the large-scale cinematic experiences such as Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. 2017’s The Mummy is set to launch the so-called Dark Universe with Tom Cruise as the main character and as the new Mummy Ahmanet.

Developing the Dark Universe

The Dark Universe is being used by Universal, as many other studios have in recent times, to capitalize on its existing intellectual property to create new content. The Mummy is just the first of a series of films to be released in the next decade. The next film to be released after The Mummy will be Bride of Frankenstein featuring Javier Bardem is set to be released in February 2019. However the fate of the supposed universe is in question as the performance of The Mummy, which is particularly surprising given that it set the template for a successful cinematic universe with its original Universal Monsters series.

Interestingly, The Mummy is not the first attempt by Universal to launch a cinematic universe based on its monster properties. 2014’s Dracula Untold can be seen to be a more organic attempt at starting the dark universe as it never presented itself as a launchpad, similar to how Marvel’s cinematic universe started with a stand-alone Iron Man film.

Dracula Untold, however, just did not have the box office numbers to launch such a feat. Its second attempt included a much bigger marketing push, announcing big names to feature in future movies with characters introduced such as Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde who was introduced in The Mummy and Johnny Depp as the invisible man. However, with the box office performance it’s difficult to tell what films, if any will be released beyond 2019’s The Mummy.

Box Office

2014’s Dracula Untold earned $217 million at the worldwide box office, which isn’t bad although just not high enough to be considered a tent pole, the status it desperately needed to reach to launch something on the scale of a cinematic universe. This year’s The Mummy has already surpassed this after a month in theaters, at almost $400 million and stands at number 11 of the highest grossing films of 2017. However, it’s still a bit of a stretch compared to the $585 million earned worldwide by Marvel’s Iron Man in 2008 ending at the 11th position for that year. The Tom Cruise film also wasn't as strong domestically, with its domestic total accounting for just 20% of the worldwide Box Office gross.

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Future of the Dark Universe

While The Mummy didn’t attract the numbers, at least in the United States, it did do relatively well elsewhere, which may mean that the franchise is not completely dead. After the release of The Bride of Frankenstein, Universal is expected to release films based on Dracula, The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. However whether these films see the light of day will be entirely up to the performance of The Bride of Frankenstein.

Franchises and Product Placement

While The Mummy may not have fared well domestically, it did do well at the international box office, making for very worthwhile placement for the brands that appeared in the film. To learn more, ready about why cinematic univeerse storylines are increasingly popular for studios and brands and how Guardians of the Galaxy: How Brand Partenrships In Space Can Exist, and our previous blog Franchise Film Success Case Study Pirates of the Carribean.

If you're considering getting your brand into the next big franchise movie, check out our Product Placement and Promotion 101 Guide.

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