20th Century Fox: Tales of a Franchiseless Major Studio




Marilyn Monroe once said, “Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.” It’s also a place to make movies that gross over $200 million, and compensate individuals handsomely to throw around those thousand dollar kisses. Don’t be fooled anymore by box-office revenues; now that 3D and IMAX have doubled the admission prices from merely a decade ago, $200 million is the new $100 million. It’s the benchmark for commercial success nowadays.

There have been many films that generated over $200 million recently. Heck, Hunger Games just opened to a $161 million weekend and is already the 12th highest grossed movie of the year, which might give Iron Man 3 a run for the number 1 spot in 2013. One thing I noticed, however, is that Fox has not had a movie in the top 10 grossing movies since Avatar was number 1 in 2009.

With the success of a $749,766,139 movie, the green light to build a franchise out of Avatar was lit brighter than Green Lantern’s light, but we won’t get to see Avatar 2 until December 2016. Avatar 2 will certainly open to similar success of its predecessor, but in the meantime Fox really needs to put their head down, roll up their sleeves look at other potential big-scale films that can turn into a mega-franchise. Long gone are the days when Independence Day was casting a huge shadow over every other Summer movie back in 1996. It’s time for Fox to move on from such glory days and get back in shape.

All major studios have franchises they can count on to generate top dollar for them. Disney unfairly has the Marvel Universe and Star Wars, which should put pressure on Fox to produce some good movies. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe Fox might miss the top 10 again, but I personally think that X-Men: Days of Future Past will past the $200 million domestic mark. The highly anticipated film should have a strong opening weekend against the other movies being released. Of the 4 X-Men ensemble movies and 2 Wolverine stand-alone ones, only X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand has crossed the $200 million mark. I think Fox realizes with the recent success of the superhero genre, this is their go-to franchise to bring in the dough.

Hence, they’ve turned to one of the most beloved storylines in the X-Men continuum to reenergize the studio. This is a film that combines all the X-Men movies together in one, and with the storyline of going back to the past to change the future, they open up an opportunity to branch out the X-Men franchise and spin off movies as they like.

20th Century Fox may not have had a movie in the top 10 since 2009, but they do have 3 in the top 10 in all time domestic grosses: Avatar, Star Wars: Episode 1 and Episode 4. Now that Star Wars is the property of Disney, it is expected that Fox will invest heavily in Avatar and make it a franchise that will bring them a movie in the top 10 box office grosses on an annual basis. The best thing about working with James Cameron is also the worst thing about working with James Cameron, however. The man redefines the meaning of perfectionist. He literally obsesses over his projects even well after his moive has been released (as you might remember, he was still diving within the remains of the Titanic years after his movie had broken box-office records). In other words, Fox needs him more than he needs them.

If Cameron comes back to Fox and says he needs another year, Cameron is going to get another year. They can penalize him somehow but it won’t matter. Avatar is his baby and he remains the director with the most leverage in Hollywood as far as studio negotiation. While they go back to the X-Men well for the seventh time next Summer, the executives in charge of their movie division really need to start thinking about brands that might not be recognized now but will be due to other highly appealing factors. They should regard this down period as an opportunity to create something fresh, something audiences wouldn’t normally expect.

In retrospect, it remains somewhat surprising that Fox hasn’t had a movie reach 200M for such a long period of time, and it doesn’t help when you have bombs like Runner, Runner and the Counselor stumble out of the gate opening week-end and have negative feedback from audiences and critics alike. However, it helps ease the pain when you have the highest domestic grossing movie of all-time bound to start sequelization within your studio’s portfolio.

One that can buy almost 750,000 kisses (with adjusted inflation).

– The Silent Shark