Friday, September 17, 2010

Franchise Report Card: Which Studios are Winning the Blockbuster Game?

Bond, Bourne, Potter, Spidey and more, grading the major players' slates
Sequels and franchise films are Hollywood’s bread and butter.

In the upcoming blockbuster battles, some studios are better positioned than others to compete for box office dollars. In particular, several movie companies face the devastating prospect that their gravy trains are coming to an end -- among them Warner Bros.' “Harry Potter” and Summit's “Twilight.”

Thanks to reboots and several big ticket purchases such as Disney’s recent acquisition of Marvel, Hollywood is poised to revitalize old source material or dig deeper into the comic book well. In other words, get ready for Harry Potter, the even earlier years.

To help the major studios out (not that they asked us!), TheWrap checked in with their upcoming slates to assess who's got the tentpole films to compete in the long run -- and who is looking a little light in the blockbuster department.
Sequels and franchise films are Hollywood’s bread and butter.

In the upcoming blockbuster battles, some studios are better positioned than others to compete for box office dollars. In particular, several movie companies face the devastating prospect that their gravy trains are coming to an end -- among them Warner Bros.' “Harry Potter” and Summit's “Twilight.”

Thanks to reboots and several big ticket purchases such as Disney’s recent acquisition of Marvel, Hollywood is poised to revitalize old source material or dig deeper into the comic book well. In other words, get ready for Harry Potter, the even earlier years.

To help the major studios out (not that they asked us!), TheWrap checked in with their upcoming slates to assess who's got the tentpole films to compete in the long run -- and who is looking a little light in the blockbuster department.
Warner Brothers

Current Cash Cows: Christopher Nolan’s Batman reboot has been a massive success for the studio. As Nolan showed with his mind-bending “Inception,” he’s got the golden touch at the box office. Batman 3 is due out in 2012 or whenever Nolan gets around to it, but without Heath Ledger’s Joker will it be another worldwide phenomenon? Robert Downey Jr. also scored big for the studio with his version of the classic detective “Sherlock Holmes.” A sequel reuniting Downey, Jude Law, and director Guy Ritchie should hit theaters in 2012.

Trouble Ahead: The end is nigh for Harry Potter and the more than $5.4 billion the series has racked up so far. The studio will try to wring out every last bit of cash from the series by breaking “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” into two parts

Bright Shining Hope: "Green Lantern." Warner and DC are so bullish on the rumored over $100 million project that plans are already in the works for a sequel. Plans are also in the works for a Flash movie and a possible Superman do-over.

Verdict: Plenty of ammunition left thanks to DC’s superhero universe, but Warner needs to find a replacement for Potter stat.

Grade: B
Paramount

Current Cash Cow: Thanks to J.J. Abrams, “Star Trek” was a bleachers-clearing success. Look for a sequel in 2012.

Still Chugging: "Jack-Ass 3-D" hits theaters this fall. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Trouble Ahead: Re-invigorating “Mission Impossible.” The third film was a big disappointment and even though Tom Cruise has tried to rekindle the love lost during his couch jumping, “Knight and Day” bombed.

Bright Shining Hope: Jack Ryan gets updated with Chris Pine taking over as Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst.

Verdict: Rebooting a series with Chris Pine certainly worked well when it came to the Starship Enterprise. Stands to reason he’ll make us forget about Harrison Ford too. But banking on Cruise could be fatal.

Grade: B-
Columbia Pictures

Current Cash Cow: “Spider-Man” gets a reboot with a new cast (Andrew Garfield), new director (“500 Days of Summer” helmer Marc Webb), and a much smaller budget ($80 million).

Still Chugging: The “Men in Black” are back next summer nearly a decade after they last saved the world from aliens.

Trouble Ahead: Despite rumors, “Ghostbusters 3” does not seem to be on the near horizon and Bill Murray has been publicly dissing the project.

Bright Shining Hope: “The Girl With a Dragon Tatoo” is a publishing phenomenon. By hiring David Fincher to direct the film adaptation and Daniel Craig to star, the studio clearly thinks it can recapture the magic. Still with rape and incest as key plot points, the material may be too dark for mainstream success.

Verdict: Sony is not as dependent as others on franchises. Its racked up a pretty impressive summer on original content alone. Still it’s looking a little light in the sequels department.

Grade: B
Walt Disney Pictures

Current Cash Cow: Toy Story 3 was the summer’s biggest grosser and report are that another installment is in the works.

Still Chugging: The Muppets are being revived for a whole new generation. This time Jason Segel will be on board to appeal to kids who’ve never heard of Fozzie or Kermit.

Trouble Ahead: “Pirates of the Caribbean” is back, but with a lower budget and no Orlando and Keria. Will Captain Jack be enough incentive to lure audiences back into the theater a fourth time?

Bright Shining Hope: Marvel’s distribution deals with Paramount expire eventually, meaning Disney gets to rake in the cash from “Captain America,” “The Avengers,” and “Iron Man.”

Verdict: Thanks to Pixar and Marvel, Disney has more ways to not just continue but to also create franchises than almost any other studio out there.

Grade: A
Universal

Current Cash Cows: “Despicable Me” was a shot in the arm for the profits-starved company. A sequel from filmmaker Chris Meledandri can’t be far off. The studio announced it was revving up another Bourne movie, but Matt Damon hasn’t signed on just yet.

Trouble Ahead: Mega-grossing “Meet the Parents” is back for another round of awkward in-law humor. Due out in December, “Little Fockers” is doing extensive re-shoots with Dustin Hoffman, which could mean the filmmakers need to ratchet up the funny.

Bright Shining Hope: “Battleship,” a big budget adaptation of the popular toy, and “Cowboys & Aliens” with Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig have franchise written all over them. Verdict: More question marks than sure things. There’s still a big appetite for Bourne, but bringing Damon back is critical.

Grade: C
20th Century Fox

Current Cash Cow: The original “X-Men” team may have disbanded, but get ready for new installments featuring Wolverine and a franchise reboot “X-Men: First Class.” On the kiddie front, in 2011 the critically reviled “Alvin and the Chipmunks” will be back in 3D and certain to separate parents from their Christmas dollars.

Still Chugging: “Rise of the Apes” a prequel to the high-grossing, but generally underwhelming Tim Burton movie “Planet of the Apes” hits theaters next summer.

Trouble Ahead: “Wall Street 2” was generally met with a collective shrug at Cannes. Already angry over bailouts, will audiences want to see a drama set in the high flying world of finance some twenty years after the first film hit theaters?

Bright Shining Hope: James Cameron keeps telling anyone and everyone that he’ll return to Pandora with more “Avatar” sequels.

Verdict: Bolstered by costumed mutants, singing chipmunks and another “Ice Age” on the horizon, News Corp. is betting on more and more of the same. This summer was a wash though, so they need to rev up the franchise machine fast.

Grade: B-
MGM

Current Cash Cow: Nada. All quiet at the Golden Lion, as the studio rolls into bankruptcy.

Still Chugging: Ditto

Trouble Ahead: Everywhere you look.

Bright Shining Hope: The pitch that Spyglass recently made to MGM’s creditors called for a way out of the financial mess. That means “The Hobbit” and “James Bond” may finally make it to the big screen

Verdict: James Bond and Bilbo could live again. We hope.

Grade: D

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