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Franchise Films Losing Ground to Publishing Adaptations

By Marcy Magiera

Franchise films still consistently top the U.S. box office, but 2016 has seen many sequels and reboots fall flat with audiences, causing many observers to question whether consumers have hit an unanticipated limit when it comes to Hollywood’s franchise obsession.

It takes time, however, before those concerns are reflected in studio production schedules. Our updated list of over 150 films with licensing potential on the way to theaters between now and 2023 shows that almost half (44%) are sequels, and another 14% are reboots.

Of course, known quantities hold much more licensing potential than unproven concepts. And the most powerful franchises, like Star Wars and Marvel and DC superheroes, dominate both ticket and licensed merchandise sales. And they are not slowing down. Disney already has release dates staked out for core or spinoff Star Wars movies every year through 2019, for example. And just last week, Disney CEO Bob Iger told an investors conference that a writer is developing another Star Wars film for 2020.

Our list is stacked with movies whose underlying properties have a history of past success, including those inspired by books, TV, video games and toys. In one notable change between this list and the comparable chart published in October 2015, book adaptations have grown by 50% to represent 27% of the titles on the list, while comics have fallen by more than a third to 19% of titles listed. The decline in comics-based titles, however, may have to do with the increasingly common practice among studios of reserving dates for a franchise—such as Marvel or DC—rather than a specific title. TLL does not list those unidentified films.

Source of Licensable Films Projected for Release, 2016-2023
Note: A film can appear in multiple categories.
Source Number, 2016 Share of Total, 2016 Share of Total, 2015
Sequels 68 44% 45%
Book adaptations 41 27% 18%
Comic books/strips 30 19% 28%
Reboots 21 14% 15%
Toys 14 9% 7%
Original 12 8% 7%
Television 12 8% 7%
Video games/apps 8 5% 6%


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