In the past 10 years, the Force was not the only thing to awaken. The One Ring awakened (The Hobbit), Bruce Wayne awakened (Batman Begins), and dinosaurs from the Jurassic era awakened (Jurassic World). Including “Star Wars Episode Ⅶ-The Force Awakens,” with record-breaking scores in the 2015 and 2016 box offices, franchise films have become mainstream in _lm industry. According to Box Office Mojo, eight out of the top 10 movies in the 2015 worldwide box office were franchise movies. Hoping that students will enjoy franchise movies even more, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) informs readers on the concept of franchise movies and briefly examines the causes and effects of their popularity.
The Concept of Franchise Movie
What is Franchise Movie?
The term “franchise” refers to a marketing strategy that employs the power of brands to create chain stores. Likewise, franchise movies employ the popularity of certain characters or plots to create a series of movies such as Harry Potter, Transformers, The Twilight Saga, and The Hunger Games.
Variations of Franchise Movies
Franchise movies use various strategies to broaden their series. These movies can be classified into several categories that do not have clear boundaries but are effective when trying to understand them.
A sequel is the most common follow-up movie that deals with events subsequent to those of the original movie. The numbers that follow the title of the movie or the subtitle usually distinguish them from the original ones. With identical characters, worldview, and basic settings compared to the original movie, sequels can easily take over the hard-core fans of the series. Ex) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
A prequel is a follow-up movie that deals with events that occurred prior to the original movie. Prequels explain the earlier stage of characters and settings of the original movie. Until recently, filmmakers used to plan prequels when a particular movie was very successful but there was no possibility of creating sequels because the story was completely over. Star Wars: EpisodeⅠ- The Phantom Menace, released in 1999, is considered an originator of this concept. Ex) Star Wars Prequel Trilogy (Episode 1, 2, and 3 from 1999 to 2005) are prequels of Star Wars Original Trilogy (Episode 4, 5 and 6 from 1977 to 1983)
A reboot is a follow-up movie that restarts the whole series from the beginning. Reboots are usually planned when: ❶The original movie completely failed in the box office but it had strong cultural influence. ❷The time gap between the production of the original movie and the one being planned is too wide. ❸The story is completed. ❹Follow-up movies are mandatory due to contractual reasons or publication rights. Ex) Batman Begins, Star Trek (2009), The Amazing Spider-Man, Man of Steel
A spinoff is a follow-up movie that focuses on minor stories and characters in the original movie that viewers showed interest in. It usually deals with secondary events and supporting characters from the original movie. Ex) Catwoman, The Wolverine, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Harry Potter series) will hit theaters in 2016. An untitled Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film is planned to be released in 2018. The various strategies and attempts of franchise movies have helped them turn into a leading trend in the film industry.
Causes and Influences of the Popularity of Franchise Movies
Popularity and Box Office Hits of Franchise Movies
Franchise movies are the hottest trend in the film industry worldwide, and their box office gross income reflects this popularity. Franchise movies can make huge, steady profit out of multiple movies. Franchise movies with the biggest box office hits are those of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU),” which has released 12 movies so far. MCU reached a record of $9,084 billion of total gross income and is ranked the number one franchise movie series. Moreover, 17 movies out of the all-time worldwide top 20 movies are franchise movies, and the figure goes up to 19 when the upcoming Frozen and Avatar sequels are included. Considering that Titanic, the only non-franchise movie in the list, was released in 1997, it is undeniable that franchise movies are the mainstream of the 21st century film market. According to Box Office Mojo, the recently released franchise movie Star Wars Episode Ⅶ - The Force Awakens is holding 41 records in box office history, including the gross record from opening day, opening weekend, and opening weeks.
Franchise movies are leading the Korean box office as well. Despite the fact that the inclination for Korean films is predominant, the Korean box office is still considered one of the major markets for Mission Impossible, Transformers, and MCU movies. In 2015, Avengers: Ager of Ultron of MCU recorded 10 million viewers and became the fourth foreign film that hit the ten million viewer mark. According to the Korean Film Council (KOFIC), the Korean box office is the second largest market for Transformers following the North American box office.
What Makes It So Special?
Diversification Franchise movies have a long history, including the 007 and Godfather series of the 1960s and 1970s. However, they were not diversified and did not gain huge popularity until the 21st century. In 2000, Mission Impossible 2 and X-Men were the only franchise movies among the top 10 movies in the worldwide box office. From 1999 to 2005, the commercial success of the Star Wars Prequels Trilogy triggered the production and diversification of franchise movies. Consequently, the Star Trek, Batman, and Terminator series came back to the screen in the form of sequels, prequels, reboots, and spinoffs. Many franchise movies adopted a new concept for a new movie to differentiate from the old ones. For example, X-Men: First Class revised the personalities of characters to promote suspense in the movie. Rise of the Planet of the Apes included Alzheimer’s as a key plot to revive the series, and Star Trek (2009) applied the concept of parallel universes to restart the whole series of movies. Various attempts resulted in a breakthrough in the _lm industry that was running out of new ideas and material. Franchise movies became the number one trend in the film industry. Since 2001, at least five franchise movies have been continuously ranked within the top 10 hit movies of the year.
Low Risk Investment and Loyal Fans Franchise movies have several merits for filmmakers in producing a movie as well as for the movie fans to enjoy. For filmmakers, low chances of failure are a huge benefit of producing franchise movies. According to News Jelly, an internet journal that adopts big data analytics, 93 follow-up movies out of 100 exceed break- even point. Considering the percentage of Korean films that exceeded the break-even point was about 21 percent in 2015, 93 out of 100 indicates remarkable stability in the franchise film industry. Franchise movies have become a cash cow to filmmakers.
Franchise movies employ the effect of repetition and create their own world views to secure and keep hard-core fans. Warner Brothers (WB) released every movie of Harry Potter either in July or in November in a yearly fashion. This repetition strategy made the audience expect a new Harry Potter movie at a particular time of the year and make it their habit to watch the movie. Meanwhile, MCU created its own world view and tried to portray as many aspects as they could. 12 released movies and upcoming MCU’s Phase 3 movies, which are movies in the manufacturing process, will share the same world view as MCU. Loyal fans tend to watch all movies in a series, hoping to enjoy the movies even more.
Besides the popularity in the film industry, franchise movies influence many other areas in society in various ways.
Toys are the main merchandise market of franchise movies. Star Wars Episode Ⅶ - The Force Awakens made much more profit by promoting related goods than from the movie itself. According to an American market research institution, IHS Technology, the amount of toys exported from China and Vietnam to America increased by 13 percent and 28 percent respectively as Star Wars Episode Ⅶ - The Force Awakens was released in 2015.
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Experts expect $5 billion worth of Star Wars related product sales. According to Adobe’s research, Electronic Arts (EA), LEGO, Sony, and Disney are the main merchandisers of those products. Disney, which took over Star Wars publication rights from Lucasfilm in 2012, is implementing an aggressive marketing strategy. Starting on September 4, 2015, Disney designated Force Friday, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday and has promoted Star Wars merchandise ranging from a bottle opener to a vacuum cleaner to a drone. Disney made $1 billion profit in a single day on September 4. MCU merchandise is popular in Korea. Along with the big hit of the Iron Man and Marvel’s Avengers series, Samsung Electronics launched a limited Iron Man edition of Galaxy S6 Edge, and Amorepacific Corporation launched Avengers collaborated cosmetic products. Franchise movie merchandises are broadening their market to groceries and stationery, which are even closer to real life.
Successful franchise movies have gone beyond the screen. Many spinoffs go on air and gain popularity. MCU’s spinoff “Agent Carter” and “Agents of Shield” are produced by ABC and have been aired on TV for more than two seasons. “Gotham,” which portrays Bruce Wayne and Detective Gordon in their youth, is produced by Fox channel and is televised in prime time. Games, commercials, and concerts are also crossovers of franchise movies.
It is well-known that movies have a great influence on people’s thoughts and ideas. Some Hollywood movies are criticized for their heroic depictions of America and justification of wars. Leaving serious controversies behind, franchise movies still have a great impact on real life because of their enormous popularity. In America, Star Wars is considered as the birth myth of the nation to some people. The older generation of America grew up with the franchise and is now trying to share those experiences with their children through the new Star Wars trilogy. Star Wars is so crucial in their lives that absentees at work heavily increase on its release date. Harry Potter and the Lord of the Ring are taken seriously, and sometimes provoke controversies regarding Christianity, inequality, and sex in real life, notwithstanding that those movies are mere fictions.
Korean Franchise Movies
Some people might wonder why there are not as many Korean franchise movies and whether the creation of a popular Korean franchise movie is possible. The biggest reason for the lack of franchise movies is the significantly smaller scale and disadvantageous structure of the Korean _lm industry compared to that of America. Setting this inseparable issue aside, the SKT suggests other reasons to explain why there are not as many Korean franchise movies, hoping that Korean movie fans will be able to enjoy well-made Korean franchise movies someday.
Korean franchise movies lack a character that is able to win sympathy from the audience. Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker make a great effort to find their self-identity as a hero and as an individual person. This leads the audience to respond to the character’s behavior. Unlike well-made foreign franchise movies, Korean franchise movies usually set gangs and criminals as their main characters, which can hardly appeal to the general audience. My Boss, My Hero, Marrying the Mafia, and My Wife is a Gangster lost their audience as the series continued. The War of Flower and Friend lost their fans by replacing the main character. The absence of an influential character leads to poor marketing on movie-related products. Unlike Hollywood movies that make considerable profits in other markets beside the film industry itself, Korean movies have a relatively small market of movie-related games, merchandise, and concerts. Weakness in character development and attitudes of the filmmakers make Korean franchise movies difficult to produce. Lastly, the majority of Korean movies do not have plans to produce follow-up movies from the beginning. Unlike The Hunger Games or The Bourne Trilogy, Korean franchise movies lack in original works or planned trilogies. Filmmakers are busy making capital out of previous movies and therefore lack sufficient scenario reviews.
The Korean _lm industry is the seventh largest _lm industry in the world, and the number of movies watched per person is at the world’s highest level. The capital invested in the _lm industry is on a constant rise, and plans for the production of Veteran 2, The Host 2, and New World are rumored. Along with the diversification of the Korean _lm industry, Korean franchise movies that are well- made may soon please Korean movie fans
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Exciting scenarios, broad marketing, and various attempts have made many sequels better than the original movies. Understanding franchise movies will help you enjoy your time in theater even more. In the first half of 2016, look forward to meet Superman, Batman (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), Avengers (Captain America: Civil War), Alice (Alice Through the Looking Glass), and X-Men (X-Men: Apocalypse), all of which are waiting for you at the box office.
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