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Star Wars Demonstrates Power of Franchises for Licensing, Theaters

By Marcy Magiera

As this story was being written and The Licensing Letter’s semi-annual chart of movies with licensing potential compiled, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was breaking advance ticket sales records two months ahead of its Dec. 18 opening. Online ticketing sites Fandango and reportedly crashed for some users under the heavy traffic when tickets went on sale Oct. 19. Fandango reported that the film outsold its previous record holder, The Hunger Games, eight times over, and broke every Imax record, selling $6.5 million in tickets to Imax screenings, more than six times the early take of any other film, according to Variety. It’s testament to the power of what may be the world’s most recognizable franchise, but also to the power of franchises in general, which maintain their dominance in our latest chart of upcoming movies with licensing potential.

In September Disney launched a licensing campaign for The Force Awakens unmatched in its scope and duration—it began 15 weeks ahead of the new movie’s release and prompted Macquarie Securities analyst Tim Nollen to predict that sales of licensed products for the film could reach $5 billion worldwide in their first year. Disney has four more Star Wars films on our list—one per year through 2020—suggesting a theatrical and licensing juggernaut for years to come.

Sequels, Reboots and Adaptations Dominate

Our list is stacked with other power franchises as well, including James Cameron’s Avatar 2, 3 and 4 and numerous titles from Marvel. In total, we identified 56 sequels and 18 reboots, accounting for a whopping 60% of films in the pipeline. Other known franchises come from books (18% of titles), toys and TV (about 7% each).

From a licensing perspective, it is important to recognize that the most licensable titles are those with a history of past success, and film sequels, reboots, and those inspired by books, TV, video games and toys all can fall into this area.

There are 34 comics-inspired movies on our chart, accounting for a muscular 28% of the 122 films on the list, about the same as when we published our last chart in May. The increase is overwhelmingly due to the aggressive development schedule Disney, Fox and Sony have established for Marvel-based movies, as well as the development of films based on DC Comics at Warner Bros. In fact, the percentage of comic movies will be even higher. Disney has slated three additional Marvel films for 2020, on May 1, July 10 and Nov. 6, but since these films are essentially “placeholders,” about which there are no details available, we have left them off the chart.

The chart includes nine titles that are original to the film medium, representing 7% of titles on the list, down from 9% earlier this year.

Source of Licensable Films Projected for Release, 2016–2020
Note: A film can appear in multiple categories.
Source Number % Total
Sequels 56 45%
Comic books/strips 34 28%
Book adaptations 22 18%
Reboots 18 15%
Original 9 7%
Television 8 7%
Toys 8 7%
Video games/apps 7 6%

All of the release dates for movies on the list have been checked against multiple sources, but there is still a high probability that dates will change. The further in the future a film is, the more likely its release date is to move.

See the full chart of 122 films complete with descriptions, release dates, studios, and sources here.


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