Friday, January 2, 2009

Fantasy Film Franchises

Fantasy films sometimes create major turnouts at movie theaters and sometimes they don't. Movie makers saw the success of "Harry Potter" and immediately tried to jump on the band wagon of the fantasy genre.
It turns out not a lot of fantasy franchises do well.

According to The Independent, "America's half-empty shopping malls aren't the only place where big business is sucking its teeth and proclaiming 'everything must go.' The worsening credit crunch is also threatening the future of some of Hollywood's best-known film franchises.

Disney took advantage of the seasonal news lull last week to quietly slip out news that it has decided to withdraw from producing 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,' the next in the Chronicles of Narnia series of films based on the children's books by C S Lewis.

Blaming 'budgetary considerations' for its decision, the studio said it would not renew an option to co-finance the $200m (£137m) movie because the worsening economic climate has forced it to become more selective about the number of films it produces.

It was the second major fantasy franchise to be unceremoniously cancelled in recent months. Earlier this year, Warner Bros decided not to make a follow-up to 'The Golden Compass,' the first instalment of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. At the time, the studio suggested that the decision to abandon the sequel, 'The Subtle Knife,' had been made because the original had upset Christian groups.

However, the real reason was likely to have been more prosaic: The Golden Compass received lukewarm reviews and managed to generate just $70m at the US box office. Although the film staved off disaster by taking $300m internationally, investors were sceptical about a follow-up.

The wider film industry is expecting to tighten its belt in 2009 with even blue-chip film-makers unable to raise funds. Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks company is facing a rocky new year after failing to raise the $750m it needs to produce its slate of 17 films. Some of the money was to have been provided by AIG, the insurance giant that collapsed in September. No new investor has yet emerged.

Even Harry Potter, the most profitable franchise in film history, isn't totally secure. Its screenwriter, Steve Kloves, said recently that Warner Bros was worried about the prospects for the last three films in the series, since J K Rowling is no longer driving anticipation for the titles by producing new books."

Screen Rant replied to the threat of the last three "Harry Potter" films not being made by saying, "But I don’t understand how Warner Bros. could think even for the slightest of moments that a 'Harry Potter' film wouldn’t make tons of money at the box office. Whether there are new books being released or not, the remaining installments are going to do just as well as the other films… perhaps even better because they show the story drawing to a close. 'Harry Potter' has already proven itself to be the most financially successful film franchise of all time."

What are your thoughts on these economic troubles affecting the movie industry? Do you think there should be new "Narnia" or "Golden Compass" films? How would you feel if the last Harry Potter films weren't made?

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