How individual films have disappeared in favor of franchises and cinematic universes

How individual films have disappeared in favor of franchises and cinematic universes
How individual films have disappeared in favor of franchises and cinematic universes

Two decades ago, we didn’t have iPhones or Android phones. We had no television broadcast services. Netflix existed, but it was in its early stages as a DVD service, its movies contained in those iconic bright red envelopes via USPS. Broadband Internet had just hit the market, replacing dial-up access. The best movies at the box office were Spider-Man, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Signs, my big greek wedding, Y Austin Powers in Goldmember.

In 2022, we will stream most of our content. We have smartphones, DVRs come with our cable or satellite contacts, and Netflix is ​​a major content creator in Hollywood. The Internet is omnipresent. The best movies of last year were Spider Man: No Way Home, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Venom: Let there be Carnage, Black Widow, F9, Y eternal. Six of the seven main films of 2021 were part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and all nine main films were in franchises.

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There have always been great movie franchises, but there seems to be a plethora of them in Hollywood today. Studios have moved away from delicious independent movies and fully embraced cinematic universes and franchises both at multiplexes and streaming services. Apparently you can’t scroll through the channels without running into the MCU, Star Wars, Harry Potter, or CC programming. You can’t walk past a multiplex without seeing giant billboards with the latest offerings from a franchise. There is no doubt that these movies and shows are wildly popular with many people, but there are many wonderful, valuable and important stories that are no longer being told in Hollywood, or are overtaken by the ‘safety’ of the franchises, so what can produce more derivative content.

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Why? How did this happen? It seems to be a good thing for the legions of fans, but is it for the movie itself? We’ll see.

The DVD market evaporated

The answer to the question “Why have individual movies disappeared in favor of franchises and cinematic universes?” it is quite simple in essence. Making movies costs a ridiculous amount of money these days in Hollywood. In the days before broadcast, studios made most of their profits from home media such as VHS and later DVD rentals and sales. That market had deep pockets and the movie industry milked them with special edition directors cuts and other behind-the-scenes exclusive content that allowed them to repackage a movie that audiences had seen with new content. In 2004, the New York Times reported that the DVD release of Miramax’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1 it earned $40 million on its first day of release.


In 2005, the Los Angeles Times wrote about this phenomenon, saying, “DVDs have provided the fastest growing segment of showbiz returns, with 2004 domestic DVD sales reaching $15.5 billion and rentals DVD sales that grossed $5.7 billion, according to Digital Entertainment Group. Videocassette sales and rentals brought in $3.2 billion, while domestic movie ticket sales totaled $9.5 billion last year. The DVD windfall has taken on a even greater importance now that overseas movie earnings are slowing. What made DVD revenue so unbelievably sweet for studios was that they didn’t have to share much of it with anyone else, typically keeping 80% of net sales profits, according to the LA Times article mentioned above.

When streaming became the main way we consume entertainment, that DVD revenue stream was diluted until it became nothing and studios had to scramble and find another way to increase their profits. Which brings us to the situation we find ourselves in now.


The loss of profits from DVDs pushed studios towards films with worldwide appeal.

The loss of DVD revenue in the film industry (with sales falling roughly 90% since 2008, coinciding with the year the MCU began, according to CNBC) directly led to the drastic change in strategy we’ve seen. Basically, studios started making more movies that have global appeal and less specific movies like 2006. Little Miss Sunshine. Spiderman and the MCU have as much appeal in Topeka, Kansas as they do in Osaka, Japan. Studios literally get more bang for their buck with this unique model of moviemaking, even tweaking their scripts in conjunction with foreign governments and censors to appeal to global markets, like Marvel and Disney did with China. Spiderman Y Fast and Furious Y Thor they are global sensations as a result.


Streaming services cut into studio revenue and shifted competition

Nothing has been stable for very long in the last 15 years in the film industry. The studios lost revenue from DVD sales and found a way to get it back. Then Netflix started producing their own content, and Disney+, AppleTV+, Paramount+, etc., got on board. Today there are more people creating more content than ever before, but they are telling the same stories. Still, the studios had the Academy Awards and that prestige on their side; The Oscars had a long-standing rule that for a film to be eligible, it had to be shown in theaters before the end of the previous year. That all changed in 2021, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ruled that movies that debuted on streaming services would be eligible for the Academy Award.

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The studios were on edge, but surely one of these young streaming services couldn’t crack the Academy Awards code. The Oscars had history, weight and importance. Considering the proliferation of franchise movies and cinematic universe movies, the studios should have been shaking. Then, in 2022, it happened. CODA was named Best Picture.

It was produced and debuted on AppleTV+, and it also took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. And yet, what were we still getting in theaters from major Hollywood studios? Franchises and cinematographic universes. the CODA However, win won’t change much; Broadcast-only debuts have been barred from Oscar eligibility again, so studios have laissez-faire control and no competition once again.


Studios have become risk averse

Ask any true movie buff (someone who’s not just a Marvel fan, to be clear) how they feel about the state of the film industry in 2022, and you’ll likely get some version of the claim that creativity is dead, all the studios care about is the bottom line, and nobody sees any way out if neither studio takes a chance on an innovative project. While this all sounds trite and banal, the truth is that studios have become incredibly risk-averse, preferring to produce franchise films that use the same characters in the same narrative framework. They can predict how these movies will perform. The studio suits have lost their vision and creativity; they are playing it safe, and it comes at a high cost to the cinema. The movie industry equates money and profits with continued, guaranteed audiences.

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Top Gun: Maverick However, it is breaking the bank in box office numbers right now. Yes, it’s part of a limited franchise, but it’s a sequel that exists more than 35 years after the original, so it’s not exactly what you could call ‘franchise cinema’. This film marks a throwback to a style of storytelling and filmmaking that has been all but dead for 15 years. the single, non-franchise blockbuster of mainstream Hollywood. Studios should take note, because the public loves it. Flip the script, literally.

The rise of social media isn’t doing the Hollywood studio system any favors, either. Executives rely on algorithms for the kind of traction news and movie trailers get to make decisions. While it’s a big part of marketing strategies, the element of surprise disappears when studios rely too much on what social media reveals to them. Fans ruin the franchises they love by constantly shaping their productions with comment, criticism, and opinion, and that’s because these franchises rely on intellectual property that fans know and protect. With original and individual movies that aren’t based on or sequels to these characters, studios don’t have to resort to collective creativity and worry about rabid, apoplectic fans who might piss them off, and instead make a movie that really is. different, creative and surprising. CODA he did just that, and he took home three Oscars in 2022.

Hollywood has always relied on innovation to advance the art of cinema. The first movies were silent and black and white. Then came sound films and color films, and special effects grew from goofy beginnings to become truly wonderful. Digital evolved from film, cameras became lighter, television and home media changed distribution, and now social media is changing the audience’s relationship with film, but these technological advances happen all the time. The movie industry seems to feel they can’t control the message on social media, so they either cower and agree to demands (dealing with terrorists, or ‘the fan base’) or run scared. They should be making the best, most innovative and diverse movies that they can. Paradoxically, this is how they can have more control over social media messages. making the best art they can.


The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on cinema

The COVID-19 pandemic and its lockdowns affected each and every one of us. For months we were confined to our homes, and Netflix and other streaming services became essential to maintaining our sanity. A voracious appetite for new content was collectively unleashed in people we needed more content and new content faster. After all, there was literally nothing else to do. That beast has been rampant for two and a half years, and it is unlikely to be controlled.

Audiences are used to watching fresh, new shows and movies 24/7. We’ve become a machine that studios struggle to feed; art and film, like the rest of capitalism, have to keep producing more and more, with line graphs perpetually up and to the right. That’s going to resonate with the way movies are made for many years to come. If audiences don’t want an era of McFilms and bland mass-market movies, perhaps they should stop demanding such a high bid and savor the excellent, when or if it comes.