The movie industry grosses billions of dollars per year in box office sales. The amount of money invested on the top movie franchises is mind-boggling, but the largest films have yielded significant returns for the studios and production companies. Some movie franchises are poised to get even larger as more prequels and sequels are being released in 2011 and 2012 to add to their franchises’ value. With these new box office sales, many film franchises will either challenge or take a spot among 24/7 Wall St.’s top ten movie franchises of all-time.
The James Bond franchise has more than 20 movies already and is getting a new film in 2012. Then there is the extremely successful Twilight series, which grossed about $1.8 billion in sales in its first three films alone. The two-part Breaking Dawn installments, to be released in November 2011 and in November 2012, will push the franchise’s value even higher and it could easily move into the top ten. Similarly, the three Ice Age films have grossed about $1.92 billion. The fourth installment, coming in July 2012, could make it another worthy contender for the top-grossing franchises.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the fourth in the MI franchise, will hit theaters in December 2011. So far, the three previous movies have grossed about $1.4 billion. Men in Black and Ghostbusters were large film franchises and each has a third film coming in 2012, although neither seems likely to be a serious challenger to the top ten of all-time.
Star Trek’s franchise is so far eleven films, with $1.3 billion in box office sales, is currently far from contention as a top ten movie franchise. The success of the “reboot,” along with a new sequel in the summer of 2012, could propel the franchise up in the ranking if they keep making new films. Similarly, the Iron Man series, which grossed so far $1.2 billion with the first two films, could be propelled much higher with the upcoming Avengers and Iron Man films. James Cameron’s Titanic from 1997 has grossed $1.843 billion in global ticket sales, but the film is about to get new life with a 3-D release in 2012 even if most viewers know the fate of the ship and the characters.
Some blockbuster movie franchises like The Matrix, Jurassic Park, Toy Story, Indiana Jones, X-Men, and a dozen or so others are currently just honorable mentions. The current threshold to be a top-ten movie franchise is effectively about $2.5 billion in global box office ticket sales. That does not even count DVD sales, rental fees, comics, books, toys, memorabilia, and other movie merchandise. The coming waves of new sequels and prequels will raise that threshold much higher. Almost all sales data came from Box Office Mojo and some international sales data on older films came from IMDB.
Here are 24/7 Wall St.’s top ten movie franchises of all-time:
> Ticket sales: $2.494 billion
Spider-Man has had three films so far. The fourth, a re-start of the series titled “The Amazing Spider-Man,” is set to hit theaters in July 2012 with a new set of actors, including a new Spider-Man. The three prior films had gross sales in box offices globally of almost $2.5 billion. The new trailer: a mutated spider bites a kid named Peter Parker and he goes on to put on tights and a mask to fight evil and greed. Sound familiar? Same story, hopefully with some new twists.
> Ticket sales: $2.531 billion
The Batman franchise has had several leading ‘Batmen,’ but the 2008 Dark Knight release with Christian Bale and Heath Ledger brought in a whopping $1 billion of the franchise’s $2.53 billion in sales for all six movies. The newest coming installment, “The Dark Knight Rises,” is set to be released in July 2012, and it is listed as being the ending to the Dark Knight theme. It is amazing how many times this series can be rebooted with new general features and the same characters over and over in Gotham City without the audience tiring of the same hero.
> Ticket sales: $2.667 billion
At first, Transformers seemed as if it might be suited for children only, but the action-packed adventures in a galactic war of man versus machine managed to impress movie watchers of all ages. It has had three installments with Shia LaBeouf as the leading character. We do not have any confirmation yet, but a Transformers 4 and Transformers 5 are said to be coming down the pipe. Rumors suggest the new films will have a new leading actor as well as a new director instead of Michael Bay. The new character, director, plots, and scripts are all still said to be work-in-progress for now, so stay tuned.
> Ticket sales: $2.78 billion
Avatar was a record-breaker on too many fronts to count. Compared to other franchises on this list, Avatar is still just one film that generated $2.78 billion in global box office sales after its late-2009 release. We count Avatar as a franchise because James Cameron has announced two more releases coming in the coming years. This film was effectively the antithesis of the story of the American Indians during the 1800s, but set well into the future and on a different planet. In Cameron’s version, however, the aliens have won so far in their battle against the greedy invaders looking to reward stockholders. The one film was such a big financial success that the series is almost a shoe-in to be ranked far higher than No.7 in the top ten franchises of all-time after the sequels are released.
6. The Lord of the Rings
> Ticket sales: $2.908 billion
The Lord of the Rings franchise released three movies in the last decade, not counting the low-budget animated films of prior years. The three films generated over $2.9 billion in sales. Two new installments of the “The Hobbit,” to be released in late-2012 and late 2013 are about to breathe new life into the Tolkien books-based franchise. The Lord of the Rings may soon go by The Hobbit, but make no mistake. This is Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the $2.9 billion in movie ticket sales will son be far higher. Imagine the add-on sales just for re-releasing the first three films in theaters in the months before The Hobbit.
> Ticket sales: $2.954 billion
The four Shrek films, released from 2001 to 2010, tally up to $2.954 billion in sales. The offshoot Puss in Boots is too new to add into the Shrek franchise value for now. While no new installments have been announced, the Shrek franchise just seems too profitable to kick to the curb entirely. Maybe DreamWorks doesn’t want to rush it or press it, but a game theorist would predict more Shrek installments are coming. DreamWorks is public after all and that means the company should do what is best for its shareholders.
4. Pirates of the Caribbean
> Ticket sales: $3.72 billion
Pirates of the Caribbean was supposed to be a three-part series, made after the Disney theme, but a fourth installment was already released in May 2011. Now, there appears to be a fifth movie coming in 2013 and a sixth in 2014. Johnny Depp may be an old man by the time he gets to walk away from being Jack Sparrow because this franchise has been so profitable. The four-part series to date has racked up $3.72 billion in global box office ticket sales.
3. (or 2.) Star Wars
> Ticket sales: $4.2 billion
Star Wars seems almost penalized because the 1970s and 1980s ticket prices were far lower than today. Still, $4.2 billion and growing after six films (not counting animation) is not bad at all. The series is also about to get two boosts on top of the already released Blu-ray format of the six film saga released earlier in 2011. The first boost will be the Electronic Arts MMO video game, Star Wars: The Old Republic, set for release in December 2011. Also, the fourth film, Episode 1, will be released in a 3-D version February 2012, according to IMDB. That will only drive sales higher for Fox and LucasFilms on top of more than three decades worth of books, comics, toys, games, and other merchandise sold. This film franchise has reached just about every culture on the planet now and everyone in the world knows what a lightsaber is.
2. (or 3.) James Bond
> Ticket sales: $5.03 billion
The James Bond movies have not only helped kick off so many successful actor careers, but also introduced the rest of us to a glamorous spy world. The franchise is now about 23 films and growing. Daniel Craig is set to return as 007 in 2012 with a film dubbed Skyfall. Craig is the latest in a long list of actors that played Mr. Bond, including Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, and others. It is one of the greatest movie franchises and is only going to keep growing through time. Whether you like Aston Martins, shaken martinis, the most luxurious casinos or beach settings in the world, everyone knows who James Bond is. There are some large discrepancies on ticket sales because of so many films being very old now, but combining sources between IMDB and Box Office Mojo put the global Bond ticket sales of almost a half-century at just over $5 billion. We would note that in 2010 CNBC listed it as $3.55 billion. It’s possible our combined figures go further back on an international basis.
1. Harry Potter
> Ticket sales: $7.66 billion
Harry Potter was a magical franchise for both children and adults after author J.K. Rowling sold millions and millions of novels to real-world muggles. It is the current movie franchise king after eight films. This franchise should easily maintain its leading position for quite some time considering its $7.66 billion in global combined movie sales. For all practical purposes, the series is over … for now. Just don’t be shocked when you hear about spin-off franchises in the future. Harry and the rest of lot will have kids and in between now and the next decade or so there are many other characters that could grow into books and film series all on their own. Maybe it will take a few years or maybe a decade, but there will be more battles involving the witches and wizards and other creatures of Rowling’s magical world.
JON C. OGG