2015 was a bumper year for cinema with five releases passing the fabled $1 billion box office milestone, and three even passing the $1.5 billion barrier. Records were created then promptly broken sometimes a matter of months later – mostly by the tidal wave that was the release of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ in December.
Disney made one of the best cinematic investment decisions of all time when it bought the Star Wars franchise from creator George Lucas in 2012. Despite only being in cinemas from December 18th, ‘The Force Awakens’ hit the number one position for box office gross and .
Franchises clearly dominate at the box office . Four out of the five top five films were franchises; along with ‘Star Wars’ Disney had another massive hit with their Marvel Studios release producing box office takings of more than $1.4 billion with ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ in fourth place.
‘Furious 7’ – in third place – became the fastest film to hit the worldwide $1 billion box office mark, doing so in just 17 days. This record was broken twice more in 2015; firstly by ‘Jurassic World’ and then again by ‘The Force Awakens’.
‘Jurassic World’ – second on the list with a total take of just over $1.6 billion – became the highest grossing North American and worldwide film opening ever before being beaten by ‘The Force Awakens’ before the end of the year.
Franchise future policy
While some franchises come to an end, some are scheduled to run and run. ‘Star Wars’ is a key example with Disney clearly learning from the success of its hit factory Marvel Studios. Similar to how Marvel keep releases coming by alternating films from specific ‘headings’ such as ‘Avengers,’ ‘Captain America’ and ‘Thor,’ so ‘Star Wars’ is scheduled to alternate films from the main series with spin-off titles such as ‘Rogue One’ which will be released later in 2016 with a return to the main series in 2017.
Therefore, fans of Star Wars and Marvel films can look forward to a seemingly inexhaustible supply of titles as these franchises continue unabated.
Big animations sell
The one non-franchise title in the top five was ‘Minions’, the third animated film after ‘Frozen’ and ‘Toy Story’ to hit the $1 billion gross at the box office, and a release that gave Universal Studios its third top five success in 2015. This is likely to mean such films continue to play a lucrative part in studios’ thinking.
Resurrection of old franchises
The massive success of ‘Jurassic World’ discussed above shows how older franchises can be successfully rekindled. The original was released in 1993, but the last film in the franchise had been 14 years before in 2001. Despite the wait, had it not been for the latest ‘Star Wars’ release then ‘Jurassic World’ would have easily been the biggest hit of 2015.
One could say ‘Star Wars’ itself is an older rekindled franchise although, while dormant for a decade, it was always known there was plenty of life left in the near forty-year-old franchise.
A formulaic approach?
Obviously film studios are keen to stick to a winning formula so long as people have an appetite for it. Releases scheduled for 2016 will fill cinemas with more of the same with major franchise films from the major players ready to roll. There is a danger of becoming too predictable…but 2015’s blueprint is bound to be replicated going forward.
Article by guest author