The year was always going to be a massive one, given the number of franchises that were battling each other for box-office dominance. It’s a no-brainer nowadays to come out with sequels; something that used to be the exception has now become the norm. But do they always work? Is the success ratio high enough to justify their production? Let’s judge the franchise based movies that came out in 2015.
The Woman in Black: Angel of Death [SUCCESS]
Without Daniel Radcliffe, the movie’s budget was scaled down drastically. The sequel earned only a third of the 2012 hit film, but that was still good enough to make it a success given the low costs incurred. A good strategy employed!
Taken 3 [SUCCESS]
An unnecessary third edition to the series, it earned lesser than Taken 2, but it was still a terrific hit with the worldwide earnings about 6.7 times of the production budget. Hopefully though, it all ends here.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water [SUCCESS]
The Nickelodeon television series SpongeBob SquarePants got its second movie, following the animated version of 2004, and became a surprise hit early on in the year, despite opening against the high budget Wachowski siblings’ movie Jupiter Ascending.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 [FAILURE]
The original movie of 2010 itself had been no hit, but still a sequel was pursued by reducing the production budget by more than half. The box-office earnings turned out to be even lower.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel [SUCCESS]
The sequel earned $86 million as compared to the previous movie’s $137 million earnings. But when the production budget is only $10 million, it still qualifies as a big enough hit to consider a third movie sometime in the future.
The Divergent Series: Insurgent [AVERAGE]
The series doesn’t seem to getting the momentum it would have been hoping for. The sequel earned a bit more than the 2014 film, but the production budget too had been raised. There are two more films left in the franchise and so far it doesn’t look to be doing any better than coming close to break-even.
Furious 7 [SUCCESS]
A massive success! The emotions associated with Paul Walker’s demise along with the death-defying stunts of the movie turned it into the biggest earner of the franchise with a staggering $1.5 billion worldwide collection.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 [FAILURE]
The surprise hit of 2009 came out with a sequel six years later, which in itself does not seem a smart decision. The sequel earned less than half of the original’s earnings, summing up the point I am trying to make.
Avengers: Age of Ultron [SUCCESS]
The Phase II of the Marvel cinematic universe came to a dramatic conclusion as Avengers: Age of Ultron raked in $1.4 billion worldwide to make it the second biggest movie of the Marvel universe. It fell short of the $1.52 billion earned by 2009’s The Avengers, but if that is seen as a failure, then I am worried about the greed growing in this industry.
Mad Max: Fury Road [AVERAGE]
The fourth movie of the franchise came after a 30-year gap, but had the critics and audience loving every moment of this dystopian world. Despite the plaudits, the earnings weren’t enough for this high-budget movie to result in profits for the studio, and that puts a question mark on another movie soon.
Pitch Perfect 2 [SUCCESS]
Elizabeth Banks made her directorial debut with the sequel to the 2012 sleeper hit. And everything went better than planned. The sequel earned more than twice the earnings of the original movie, justifying every dollar spent in making this movie.
The reboot to the 1982 classic will not be remembered for long, but it looks to have earned enough at the box-office for the studios to recover their investment.
Insidious Chapter 3 [SUCCESS]
You put in $10 million and you earn more than $100 million, that’s the philosophy on which Blumhouse Productions seems to produce horror movies. Insidious Chapter 3 met those parameters to be hugely successful, even though it was way off the numbers of the previous instalment.
Jurassic World [SUCCESS]
The biggest movie of the year so far, with the highest domestic opening ever seen (likely to be surpassed now by Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Jurassic World proved that you can make money on nostalgia, if you do it well enough. A series that seemed to have been buried after the lacklustre third film in 2001 is alive and kicking once again, earning $1.67 billion worldwide this year.
Ted 2 [AVERAGE]
A sequel borne out of necessity since the 2012 film was such a huge success. But no one seemed to have the heart in this one, and it eventually earned less than half of the original, though still enough that the studios might have made some small profits.
Magic Mike XXL [SUCCESS]
The sequel fared poorly in North America in comparison to the original film, but did better in foreign markets. Its total earnings were about 25% short of the original movie’s collections, but on the other hand, they were still eight times the production costs. So it’s tough to be hard on the sequel.
Terminator: Genisys [AVERAGE]
It was supposed to be the big movie of the year with the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his most iconic role. But the folks in North America were not interested where the movie could not even muster $100 million. The foreign markets was a different story altogether, especially China, which allowed the movie to earn some respectable numbers and do better than 2009’s Terminator Salvation. Still not good enough that the studio will rush into a sequel.
The spin-off to the Despicable Me series was always a hit in the making, but no one would have expected the numbers to go flying that high. More than a billion dollars collected by the Minions makes it one of the biggest animated movies ever!
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation [SUCCESS]
The release date was pushed forward, possibly to avoid clashing with Star Wars, and it turned out to be a smart move. The movie’s earnings are marginally lower than that of its predecessor of 2011, but it is still the second biggest movie of the franchise, and still loved across the globe.
Fantastic Four [FAILURE]
The rebooted superhero series was a much publicised disaster, featuring as one of the biggest flops of the year. I wonder who will touch this project again.
Hitman: Agent 47 [FAILURE]
Another video game-to-movie adaptation that has gone wrong. While the 2007 Hitman movie was not much appreciated, the reboot has done even worse, begging us to ask the question – why was it even attempted?
Sinister 2 [AVERAGE]
Another Blumhouse Productions movie, the sequel earned about 37% lower than the original movie despite a jump in the production costs. The production budget though in itself is so low at $10 million, that the movie’s $49 million earnings would have made it profitable.
The Transporter Refueled [AVERAGE]
No Jason Statham, less audience. That is how things went for the planned reboot of the series. While the domestic earnings were disastrous, such action movies still manage to make good money overseas to allow the costs to be recovered.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials [SUCCESS]
This YA franchise is doing amazingly well, and even though the earnings of the sequel were lower than that of the 2014’s movie, it is still more than five times the production budget.
Hotel Transylvania 2 [SUCCESS]
It’s a franchise that has garnered so much love and appreciation that one has to double-check the numbers. The sequel earned almost a $100 million more than the 2012 film, and also achieved the best opening weekend figures for the month of September in North America, eclipsing the record set by its own prequel three years back.
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension [SUCCESS]
The movie was a hit, but it was also the lowest earner of the franchise, which came to prominence in 2009. The days for the franchise are now numbered and the next movie has already been announced to be the last one.
The latest Bond movie had a tough job catching up with Skyfall, but with more than $800 million already earned, it still gets the distinction of being the second biggest movie of the franchise.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 [SUCCESS]
The finale of The Hunger Games series is the weakest performer of the franchise by far. It may seem like a tame way to go, but the movie in terms of the numbers is a financial success. And earning more than $500 million ain’t a simple feat.
A lot many franchises from days long gone by have come back in 2015, including the seventh instalment from Rocky series. Loved by the critics and the fans, the movie has done splendidly well in North America, and hopefully will shine overseas too.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens [SUCCESS]
It has released only this weekend in North America, but with a record opening on Day 1 itself, we know where this film is headed. It will surpass a billion dollars globally; how much further beyond, we will have to wait and watch.
It is too early to give a verdict on Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip.
If one goes through the above list, it is easy to see why franchises are the focus areas for studios nowadays. Because they work. Of the 30 franchise films mentioned above, only 4 of them were disasters. Another 7 movies have done enough to be termed as ‘average’, where they would have earned close to break-even numbers. Which leaves us with 19 movies of the 30 that were financially successful, almost a 2 out of 3 chance of making good on your investment. More importantly, failure of only a few films of this category means that your chances of losing are quite low (2 of 15).
Let us not be misguided into thinking that these movies work only on account of the goodwill created by the past films of the series. While the goodwill does help, there is a great amount of effort put in to ensure that the sequels are appreciated as well. That is the only way to ensure the longevity of the series.
Franchises are here to stay, and the coming years will not see their impact lessen. Does this mean that original movies stemming from original ideas take a backseat? That could be a discussion for another day…