Nolte: As Golden Goose Franchises Falter, Hollywood Stares into the Abyss

Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War Official Trailer
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Even though the film industry will close 2018 with record box office receipts, that might not necessarily mean more people went to the movies. Nevertheless, a win is a win is a win, and Hollywood will celebrate that win. But 2018 might be remembered as a perfect storm that will be difficult to repeat.

Thus far, all but one of 2018’s top-ten hits is either a sequel, part of an ongoing franchise, or both. And other than Solo: A Star Wars Story, every single title is part of a franchise that still appears to be healthy: Marvel, Jurassic World, Mission: Impossible, etc.

Next year does not look anywhere near as exciting. Oh, there will be some monster hits. The fourth and final chapter of the Avengers series, It: Chapter 2, The Fast and Furious spinoff, Spider-Man: Far From Home, The final chapter of the latest Star Wars trilogy, Disney’s live-action Lion King, Toy Story 4 — These titles are all golden geese, but three of those golden geese are dying.

There will be no more Avengers.

It: Chapter 2 is it.

The end of this Star Wars trilogy marks the end of Skywalker saga, the end of any connection to the original trilogy — meaning no more Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, or Princess Leia.

So what is next for the movie biz?

As far as the Avengers franchise goes, after a decade of box office perfection, let’s assume Marvel will not miss a step. With the loss of their anchors — Ironman, Captain America, and Thor — it will be interesting to see if Captain Marvel’s gender switch can pick up the slack. But Black Panther is going to make up for a lot.

Other franchises that still appear to be healthy include Mission: Impossible, Jurassic Word, Deadpool, The Purge, Conjuring, and James Bond. The surprise success of Venom, combined with Sony’s wise decision to bring Marvel on board to rescue Spider-Man, tells us the ongoing Spidey-Verse is off to a promising start.

But a whole lot of other golden geese franchises are faltering, ended, or have outright collapsed.

The latest from the Harry Potter universe, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grunewald, is off to a slow domestic start, more than $100 million below its predecessor, which opened at the same time two years ago. Worldwide, the sequel sits as $465 million, which is well behind the original’s $814 million. Time will tell if foreign grosses can make up for the domestic shortfall.

The nearly 20-year-old X-Men franchise is rebooting again with The New Mutants in August. After the disappointing returns on 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, are people clamoring for more? Especially with an unknown cast? In June, the First Class team reunites in Dark Phoenix, but with no one in the original cast for back up. Not even a Wolverine cameo like we saw in Apocalypse.

The Star Trek franchise is, in my opinion, in worse shape than most people believe. The latest chapter, Star Trek: Beyond, only earned $335 million worldwide, which means it lost a lot of money and was a big comedown from the $467 million earned by 2013’s Into Darkness. The rebooted Star Trek’s biggest problem is that no one liked Into Darkness or Beyond.

The Transformers franchise wore out its welcome. The latest chapter, Last Knight, was a financial catastrophe, earning about half of its predecessor’s worldwide take. A spin-off, Bumblebee, hits theaters next month, and tracking suggests it will make only $40 million over the five-day Christmas weekend. For perspective, Last Knight opened to $44 million over a three-day weekend.

On top of losing its anchor to the original trilogy, Star Wars has alienated its core fan base and already suffered a shocking box office humiliation with Solo.

The DC Universe is dealing with even more fan ill-will than Star Wars. The next chapter, Aquaman, opens in December, and even if it does bring in the projected $100 million over the five-day Christmas holiday, it will still be the softest opening in the franchise’s six-year history. Other than Wonder Woman, DC is making too many movies the fans just don’t like. Can 2019’s Shazam! turn things around? What about yet another iteration of the Joker in October? In worse news, Henry Cavill wants out as Superman and Ben Affleck appears to be out as Batman. So…

Another freakin’ reboot?

Both chapters in the King Kong/Godzilla franchise have underperformed. The third, where the two titans finally meet, arrives in 2020. But what comes next?

Dead or dying franchises of the last five years include: Pirates of the Caribbean, Alien, Planet of the Apes, Jason Bourne, Jack Ryan, Saw, Resident Evil, 21 Jump Street, Divergent, Hunger Games, Fifty Shades, Sherlock Holmes, Terminator, How to Train Your Dragon, Predator, Wolverine, Muppets, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Hobbit, Men In Black, Alice in Wonderland, Paranormal Activity, and Universal’s monster universe — which exploded on takeoff with the Mummy.

Up and coming franchises are few and far between: Jumanji, Mary Poppins, Avatar, Halloween, Crazy Rich Asians, and Disney turning its animated classics into live-action films

In other words, look at the corner the film industry has painted itself into by relying solely on three genres: Hugely expensive CGI extravaganzas, fairly expensive animated children’s movies, and cheap horror.

And can we admit now that the terrible idea of 3-D is finally fading?

Already, the public has soured on Hollywood’s unfunny gross-out comedies, mid-range dramas, Oscar bait, and a genre that reaches all the way back to the 1930s — the romantic comedy. The whole idea of using movie stars to attract the public is dead. So all of the industry’s chips have been pushed into the middle of the table on those three big bets.

And how much longer will people show up for these cheap horror movies that are all starting to look alike?

Never in its 100-year history, even with the breakup of the studios and the proliferation of TV, has the movie industry seemed to be on such shaky ground.

Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.

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