Current Movie Industry Charts
The following are the key distribution and box office patterns for all wide releases — franchises and non-franchises — updated in real time as new movies open. Rollover each bar for precise figures:
01. Number of Franchise & Non–Franchise Wide Releases, 1997-present
Number of Releases: Approximately 150 wide movie releases per year, three per weekend, 60 franchise films and 90 non-franchise films. As a percent, it’s 40% franchise films a year and 60% non-franchise films. That’s where we are now. Twice as many franchise films as 20 years ago. (Rollover each bar above for precise numbers.)
The number of franchise releases will increase slightly in 2019, although this can change with shifts in distribution schedules.
02. Box Office for Franchise & Non-Franchise Wide Releases, 1997-2018
Box Office: In 2018, the 60 franchise films earned approximately $22.3 billion at the worldwide B.O., about four times as much as the 94 non-franchise films. In other words, the 39% franchise wide-releases earned 79% of American wide-release worldwide B.O., while the 61% non-franchise films earned $5.6 billion, or 21%. Think about that for a second.
There was enormous growth in international B.O. for franchise films starting in 2009, in part because of the mix of films but also because of the growth of the international markets, especially China. In 2018, international slowed down a bit for the first time in five years.
Non-Franchise Films: The spread between franchise and non-franchise worldwide B.O. jumped in 2012 and it increased again in 2015, 2016 and 2017. The last few years have seen fewer strong, single-episode, non-franchise titles such as American Sniper ($350M, 2014), Inception ($293M, 2010), Gravity ($274M, 2013), The Martian ($228M, 2015), Tangled ($201M, 2010), Interstellar ($188M, 2014) and The Revenant ($183M, 2015).
Among dramas, only Bohemian Rhapsody, A Star is Born and Dunkirk have earned more than $180 million at the domestic box office, and among among comedies, only The Upside and Girls Trip have earned more than $100 million. The movie business needs these non-franchise successes to appeal to all types of audiences in all genres all over the world. Where will they come from in 2019?
03. Number of New Franchise Launches & Box Office, 1997-2018
New Franchises: There were 14 new franchises in 2018, following 19 in 2017 and 21 in 2016. The 14 new franchises in 2018 was the fewest since 2011.
The new franchises in 2018 opened 27% higher than the new franchises in 2017 when you include Black Panther; however, without Black Panther, new franchise openings were 6% lower in 2018 than in 2017.
Franchise creation is the lifeblood of the commercial movie business. In 2019, the number of new franchises will increase to 22 — a positive development.
04. Franchise Age -- # of Sequels, Prequels/Origins, Spin-offs & Remakes, and Average Episode #, 1997-Present
Franchise Age — Sequels, Prequels/Origins, Spin-offs, Remakes, and Episode Numbers: The number of sequels, prequels/origins, spin-offs, and remakes has increased to over 40 in the last couple of years (triple the number of 20 years ago), and the average episode number for franchises has settled at around three. In other words, more sequels, prequels, spin-offs and remakes, deeper into their life-cycle — they’re older.
Most franchises eventually slow down or wear out — this is another reason why new franchise creation is so important (chart 03).
05. Average Box Office by Franchise Episode, 2015-2018
Box Office by Episode: On average, franchises earn similar domestic box office during the first three episodes, with a dip in episode four and international taking off in episode #5. Franchises that make it to episode #5 and beyond are strong by nature, especially internationally (Star Wars, Batman, Fast & Furious, Spider-Man, Bond, Harry Potter, Star Trek).
After looking at this chart, forget about it because there is enormous variation by genre and franchise — you have to drill down to genre and franchise to get a handle on per-episode dynamics.
06. Average Annual Rotten Tomatoes Score for Wide Releases (1,000+ Screens), 1997 to Present
The average Tomatometer score is rising:
- Between 1997 and 2010 wide release movies averaged a 44.6% Tomatometer score;
- From 2011 to present the average picked up to 52.6%;
- And in 2018 wide releases scored 57.6%.
Rotten Tomatoes’ scores started rising in 2011 and they continue to improve to this day. Have movies improved critically? Probably not. Did Rotten Tomatoes adjust its algorithm? Don’t know for sure. Warner Bros. bought Rotten Tomatoes/Flixster in 2011, and NBCUniversal/Fandango bought a majority stake in 2016.
This is a positive trend — there’s no reason the movie review cup should be less than half-full. However, if you were involved with a pre-2011 movie which carries an unduly negative review score for the rest of its life throughout the internet, you’re out of luck.