Current Movie Industry Charts
Below are the key distribution and box office patterns for all wide releases — franchises and non-franchises — updated in real time as new movies open.
The best set of industry figures available anywhere:
01. Number of Franchise & Non–Franchise Wide Releases (1,000+ Theaters), 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. More than twice as many franchise films as 20 years ago. (Rollover each bar for precise figures.)
The number of franchise releases will remain about the same 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, 62 franchise films earned approximately $22.4 billion at the worldwide B.O., about four times as much as the 92 non-franchise films. In other words, the 40% franchise releases earned 79% of Hollywood wide-release worldwide B.O., while the 60% non-franchise films earned $6.1 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.
Since the beginning of 2017 there have been fewer strong, single episode, non-franchise releases. Among dramas, only Bohemian Rhapsody and Dunkirk have earned more than $180 million at the domestic box office. Compare that with American Sniper ($350M, 2014), Inception ($293M, 2010), Gravity ($274M, 2013), The Martian ($228M, 2015), Interstellar ($188M, 2014) and The Revenant ($183M, 2015).
Among comedies, only The Upside and Girls Trip have earned more than $100 million, compared with Bridesmaids ($169M, 2011), The Heat ($160M, 2013), Identity Thief ($134M, 2013), Silver Linings Playbook ($132M, 2013), and Central Intelligence ($127M, 2016).
The movie business needs these non-franchise films to stay fresh and expand audiences. Where will they come from in 2019? At the moment they are missing.
03. Number of New Franchise Launches & Box Office, 1997-2018
New Franchises: There were 16 new franchises in 2018, following 20 in 2017 and 21 in 2016. The 16 new franchises in 2018 tied with 2015 for the fewest new franchises since 2011.
The new franchises in 2018 opened 21% higher than the new franchises in 2017 when you include Black Panther; however, without Black Panther, new franchise openings were 9% lower in 2018 than in 2017.
Franchise creation is the lifeblood of the commercial movie business. At the moment, it appears the number of new franchises will remain the same in 2019 at 16, but it is always possible that a few new films will hit big and turn into franchises later in the year — it remains to be seen.
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 is now over 40, or nearly one per weekend. This is triple the number of 20 years ago, and 50% more than seven years ago — a dramatic increase.
And the average episode number for these films is over 3.5 now. In other words, more sequels, prequels, spin-offs and remakes than ever, and they are deeper into their life-cycle — they’re older.
Most franchises eventually either wrap up, slow down or wear out — another reason why new franchise creation is so important (chart 03 above).
05. Average Box Office by Franchise Episode, 2015-2018
Box Office by Episode: On average, franchise episode #2s dip in their domestic box office earnings, and then increase slightly in episode #3, #4, and #5. International box office also dips in episode #2, then increases in episode #3 and #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).
There is enormous episode variation by genre and franchise — it’s essential to look at genre and franchise to get a clear handle on per-episode dynamics.
06. Average Annual Rotten Tomatoes Score for Wide Releases (1,000+ Theaters), 1997 to Present
The average Tomatometer score is rising:
- Between 1997 and 2010 wide release movies averaged a 44.7% Tomatometer score;
- From 2011 to present the average picked up to 52.8%;
- And in 2018 wide releases scored 57.9%.
The Rise: Rotten Tomatoes’ scores jumped in 2011 and they continue to rise to this day. Have movies improved critically? No, they’re the same. Did Rotten Tomatoes adjust its algorithm? Don’t know. Warner Bros. bought Rotten Tomatoes/Flixster in 2011, and NBCUniversal/Fandango bought a majority stake in 2016. These events seem to align with improvements in RT’s scores.
The Threshold: Rotten Tomatoes recently reached an important threshold: during the last 12 months, the average RT score for wide releases is now approximately 60. 60 is an important number because movies with a score of 60 or better receive a shiny red tomato with their score, while movies below 60 get an ugly green splat. A picture is worth a 1,000 words and those shiny tomatoes and ugly splats follow a movie on leading news, ticketing, streaming, and cable websites — they’re everywhere.
Improvement: The rising RT scores are a positive change, after all, what’s the point of relentlessly trashing movies? If 60 is where RT draws the line between good and bad reviews, then their average rating should be around 60. Hopefully the average won’t climb much higher, or RT will become a shill.
The Flaw: At the same time, there is a flaw that continues to plague Rotten Tomatoes, which is labeling a movie with the shiny red tomato for review scores >/= 60, and the ugly green splat for review scores < 60. Are reviews with a 60 score good, and reviews with a 59 score bad? No, there’s everything in between. This is unfair to the green splat movies, and they’re stuck with their green splat forever. Rotten Tomatoes should add a third icon to signal mixed reviews between 40 and 59.