Presumably, tween girls are interested in the Twilight series because of the copious shirtlessness of the male leads. The more business minded among us can also find something to appreciate about the films, however, and it isn’t the dialogue. Twilight, along with other major franchises have the benefit of a captive audience whose long-term investment in the character and themes represent a guaranteed smash hit at the box office. The fiscal appeal of multi-movie format is undeniable, as exhibited by the $150 million opening weekend projections for Twilight’s fourth installment, Breaking Dawn. Anticipated to be the second highest grossing film of 2011, it is outdone only by another franchise, the eighth and final picture in the Harry Potter series which grossed $170 million in its first weekend.
The fact that the two top grossing films of 2011 were franchises, raises an excellent point about the popularity of films released in a series. The final Harry Potter was also the highest grossing of all the installments, indicating that the longer a series goes on the more the audience seems to connect to the characters and the more likely they will be to head to theaters and check in on their favorite characters.
This conclusion led to a full scale investigation of the top grossing franchise films of all time and the studios smart enough to have bought the rights.
Franchise: Harry PotterNumber of Films: Eight
US Gross: $2,389,046,723
Worldwide Gross: $7,704,720,824
Studio: Warner Brothers Entertainment (TWX)
Plot: The films are based on the seven year journey of Harry Potter and his two best friends Hermione and Ron through the wizarding school of Hogwarts. Each movie chronicles a new step in Harry's fight against the evil wizard and dark lord Voldermort.
Fun Fact: The final installment of Harry Potter was the 3rd highest-grossing film of all time after Avatar and Titanic.
Franchise: James Bond
Number of Films: 23
US Gross: $1,609,487,453
WorldWide Gross: $5,089,726,104
Studio: Multiple/ Metro Goldwyn Mayer/ Private
Plot: International spy/lady killer prefers his martinis shaken not stirred and his women unnaturally attractive.
Fun Fact: When the James Bong series begins, he smokes cigarettes. Due to changing perception of smoking, the character stops smoking during the films made in the eighties and through today
Franchise: Star Wars
Number of Films: Six
US Gross: $2,226,166,672
WorldWide Gross: $4,411,410,761
Studio: Lucas Films and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporations (NWSA)
Plot: Luke Skywalker leaves his home planet, joins other rebels, and attempts to save Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader, who also happens to be his father.
Fun Fact: Sales of Star Wars merchandise comprise the bulk of total revenue over the last thee decades. According to Forbes, more than $9 billion, has been shared by toy companies like Kenner and Hasbro (HAS) who create figuirines and other memorabilia. Analysts at NPD Fungroup, said an additional $1.6 billion has been generated from videogames developed by LucasArts.
Franchise: Pirates of the Caribbean
Number of Films: Four
US Gross: $1,279,211,336
Worldwide Gross: $3,723,435,967
Studio: Disney (DIS)
Plot: In the first installment, a blacksmith named Will Turner joins forces with a wacky pirate named Captain Jack Sparrow to rescue his beloved from some undead pirates. The remainder of the films focus on Will and Jack as they continue to team up for high adventure on the Seven Seas.
Funfact: Johnny Depp has said his Captain Jack Sparrow character was loosely based on the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards, who appears in a cameo in the third installment as Jack's father.
Number of Films: Five (if one includes the spin-off Puss in Boots released this year)
US Gross: $1,380,313,334
Worldwide Gross: $3,115,572,350
Studio: DreamWorks (DWA)
Plot: Shrek is an Ogre living in solitude until a group of fairy tale characters are forced to live in his swamp by the evil Lord Faarqward. Irritated, Shrek is forced to team up with a Donkey to go up against the Lord and rescue a princess being held against her will in the process. Shrek and the Princess Fiona are married in the later films.
Funfact: The second Shrek film was the highest grossing in the series and the fifth highest grossing film of all time.
FINAL FUN FACT: According to IMDB, 7 of the 10 highest grossing films in history were installments in franchises. Others not mentioned here include: Batman: The Dark Knight, Toy Story 3 and Spider-Man.
All box office data from The-Numbers.com