Potter Franchise The Exception, Not The New Rule

by Paul William Tenny

With so much over-coverage of Harry Potter on the Internets, it's hardly worth spending any time over. There's nothing I can write that you can't get anywhere else, except perhaps to pick a fight over the attempt by some to throw out conventional industry wisdom when it comes to the shelf life of franchise films.

According to Variety, "[Potter 5] has demolished the notion that franchise properties are destined to eventually run out of steam."

This is in complete contrast to conventional wisdom for a very good reason: it just happens to be true. Franchise films don't continue to do well in theaters because they have infinite legs and it's what people crave the most, it's because that's practically all there is to see these days. This summer alone, it seemed like over half the films see third generation rehashes of the past, each one bigger than the last, not crushing unequal original competition, but other weaker sequels that can't compete with $300 million dollar budgets. Spiderman 3 was one of the largest openings ever, yet didn't generate as much as enthusiasm as the two films that came before it by a long shot. People were genuinely disappointed by the lack of originality, along with a handful of other common complaints that make up the majority of our cinema like characters that lack depth and writers and directors that refuse to explore new territory.

Rag's like Variety can point to Spiderman 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End as proof that where there's will and money, there's a way to milk old ideas for every drop they are worth without having the balls to risk that money on something new - something that without a doubt would cost half as less and could possibly be the next big franchise.

But they ignore the obvious. People saw Spiderman 3 on credit left over from the firs two films and were disappointed - though not universally - and that credit has been burned up. It's probably a good thing that the cast and Sam Raimi are looking for a break before returning to the series, because they are going to be back in the unenviable position of having to work to earn back the audience for a fourth trip.

Pirates 3 is done, they said what they wanted to say and that's good too, because the next film was probably going to send half of L.A. into debt to pay for it, and the third installment wasn't exactly immune from criticism either.

Quite the contrary, the number of franchises that have been milked to death outnumber those that continue to succeed by a wide margin, and the Potter franchise is unique in that it has an appeal so wide that such a thing hasn't been seen since the days of Disney's Snow White.

Being built on the back of one of the most loved and financially successful book series of all time helps a lot, too.

So don't be fooled if you happen to hear claims like this bounced around; look at where the Alien series began, and where it ended up. Every franchise crashes and burns eventually.


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