After watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, my friends and I engaged in a discussion regarding what the next massively popular film franchise will be. Captain America should do some solid box office and is a blast by all accounts, and it’s possible that The Avengers could melt our collective faces, but the superhero pool is too crowded and mediocre for any one franchise to carry the day. Twilight is ending. Saw is done. Although I’m certain both parts will be blockbusters, The Hobbit is the last bit of juice we can squeeze from the Lord of the Rings franchise. Someone needs to pull an Old Yeller on Pirates of the Caribbean and emancipate us from Jerry Bruckheimer’s greedy death talons. The Hunger Games has employed inexplicable casting (Lennie Kravitz?!) and the books rapidly decrease in quality after a terrific start, so I can’t imagine it will ignite the public lexicon the way its YA counterparts have. And everyone always seems to forget that the Narnia movies exist.
So unless an as yet non-existing franchise leaps into the fray (and be on the lookout for the first installment of Henri Mazza‘s and my ninja mermaid trilogy, coming to you in splashy D-Box Summer 2015!), the next major box office and merch breadwinner is anyone’s guess. What makes a franchise hugely successful? Familiarity of both content and cast, obviously, and a big name director doesn’t hurt. Although Jackson wasn’t widely known in non-genre circles before Lord of the Rings, and we all know how that turned out. (Pretty well. I mean, it did okay.) Easy merchandising tie-ins and swoon-building love triangles are a bonus. Geek cred helps a box office but certainly isn’t vital to a film’s success, but these days, teen cred unfortunately is. Kids spend. They buy stupid shit and go to the movies constantly because it’s the closest thing to a date their parents will allow. I’m pretty sure I saw every single theatrical release that wasn’t rated R (my parents are Puritans) between the years 1994 and 1999. Twice.
Otherwise, Fincher’s The Girl movies could do the trick, as Stieg Larsson’s novels and the original Swedish movies were all huge hits. Fincher’s on fire after the critical and commercial success of The Social Network, and a combination of legitimate interest in the source material and morbid curiosity could possibly bring in big audiences. But the hard R rating it will presumably pull will alienate those big spenders: squares and teens, and it’s hard to make a huge hit without them.
Of the comics, I’d love to see both Y and Preacher well adapted in vast franchise form, although the “well” part of that adapted is unlikely. Preacher, while by far the better comic, is probably too weird for mainstream audiences, but Y‘s got a pop vibe that could translate well to the big screen, with an easy hook and plenty of romance for the kiddie crowd. If DJ Caruso stays the hell away from this material, it could make a great film series.
Sarah Pitre of Forever Young Adult knows her way around a lucrative franchise, since YA book properties generally translate into big movie bucks. She lists the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth and the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness as viable possibilities, as both series incorporate the dark dystopian future favored by the youths these days, with the added bonus that they’re actually well-written with clearly developed adult themes. I still maintain that Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time books need to be made into a gorgeous 2D fantasy series post-haste, and it’s too bad that The Golden Compass was such a colossal misstep, because now no one will touch author Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart series, despite how prime for adaptation the books are.
Frankly, I’d watch any of this. Would I obsessively pre-order tickets and arrive to the theater an hour early the way I did for Harry Potter? It’s possible. But what I’d really love to see is a new, huge horror franchise. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get behind the Saw films. They had a clever conceit but they were missing this little thing I like to see in my movies: namely, acting. The first Paranormal Activity was a great success, but I don’t see a need for the sequels. They’re so cheap to make that any box office is considered a success, but they hardly qualify as a big deal. Jigsaw, Ghostface, Freddy, Jason, Michael, and Final Destination‘s Death (“The same Death from like, The Civil War and Titanic,” as Mindy Kaling once brilliantly tweeted) are all getting a tad old, and I’m ready for some fresh blood. So that’s my vote, if I get one. I want a brand new, terrifying, killer franchise to take Hollywood by storm. What’s your vote? Predictions?