Nov. 17, 2011 at 7:38 AM ET
By John C. Ogg, 24-7 Wall St.
The movie industry grosses billions of dollars per year in box office sales. The amount of money invested on the top movie franchises is mind-boggling, but the largest films have yielded significant returns for their studios and production companies. Some movie franchises are poised to get even larger as more prequels and sequels are being released in 2011 and 2012. With these new box office sales, many film franchises will either challenge or take a spot among 24/7 Wall St.’s top ten movie franchises of all-time.
The James Bond franchise has more than 20 movies already and is getting a new film in 2012. Then there is the extremely successful “Twilight” series, which grossed about $1.8 billion in sales in its first three films alone. The two-part “Breaking Dawn” installments, the first opening at midnight Thursday and the second in November 2012, will push the franchise’s value even higher and it could easily move the franchise into the top ten. Similarly, the three “Ice Age” films have grossed about $1.92 billion. The fourth installment, coming in July 2012, could make it another worthy contender for the top 10.
“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” the fourth MI film, will hit theaters in December 2011. So far, the three previous movies have grossed about $1.4 billion. The first two “Men in Black” movies did well and a third is on the way. And a third “Ghostbusters” reportedly is in production. Though neither seems likely to be a serious challenger for the top 10 ranking.
“Star Trek’s” franchise is so far eleven films, with $1.3 billion in box office sales, and is light years from contention for the list. The success of the “reboot,” along with a new sequel in the summer of 2012, could propel the franchise up in the ranking if they keep making new films. Similarly, the “Iron Man” series, which grossed so far $1.2 billion with the first two films, could be propelled much higher with the upcoming “Avengers” and “Iron Man” films. James Cameron’s Titanic from 1997 has grossed $1.843 billion in global ticket sales, but the film is about to get new life with a 3-D release in 2012 even if most viewers know the fate of the ship and the characters.
Some blockbuster movie franchises like “The Matrix,” “Jurassic Park,” “Toy Story,” “Indiana Jones,”” X-Men,” and a dozen or so others are currently just honorable mentions. The current threshold to be a top-ten movie franchise is effectively about $2.5 billion in global box office ticket sales. That does not even count DVD sales, rental fees, comics, books, toys, memorabilia, and other movie merchandise. The coming waves of new sequels and prequels will raise that threshold much higher. Almost all sales data came from Box Office Mojo and some international sales data on older films came from IMDB.
Here are 24/7 Wall St.’s top movie franchises of all-time:
3. (or 2.) Star Wars, $4.2 billion total ticket sales
Star Wars seems almost penalized because the 1970s and 1980s ticket prices were far lower than today. Still, $4.2 billion and growing after six films (not counting animation) is not bad at all. The series is also about to get two boosts on top of the already released Blu-ray format of the six film saga released earlier in 2011. The first boost will be the Electronic Arts MMO video game, Star Wars: The Old Republic, set for release in December 2011. Also, the fourth film, Episode 1, will be released in a 3-D version February 2012, according to IMDB. That will only drive sales higher for Fox and LucasFilms on top of more than three decades worth of books, comics, toys, games, and other merchandise sold. This film franchise has reached just about every culture on the planet now and everyone in the world knows what a lightsaber is.
2. (or 3.) James Bond, $5.03 billion total ticket sales
The James Bond movies have not only helped kick off so many successful actor careers, but also introduced the rest of us to a glamorous spy world. The franchise is now about 23 films and growing. Daniel Craig is set to return as 007 in 2012 with a film dubbed Skyfall. Craig is the latest in a long list of actors that played Mr. Bond, including Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, and others. It is one of the greatest movie franchises and is only going to keep growing through time. Whether you like Aston Martins, shaken martinis, the most luxurious casinos or beach settings in the world, everyone knows who James Bond is. There are some large discrepancies on ticket sales because of so many films being very old now, but combining sources between IMDB and Box Office Mojo put the global Bond ticket sales of almost a half-century at just over $5 billion. We would note that in 2010 CNBC listed it as $3.55 billion. It’s possible our combined figures go further back on an international basis.
1. Harry Potter, $7.66 billion total ticket sales
Harry Potter was a magical franchise for both children and adults after author J.K. Rowling sold millions and millions of novels to real-world muggles. It is the current movie franchise king after eight films. This franchise should easily maintain its leading position for quite some time considering its $7.66 billion in global combined movie sales. For all practical purposes, the series is over … for now. Just don’t be shocked when you hear about spin-off franchises in the future. Harry and the rest of lot will have kids and in between now and the next decade or so there are many other characters that could grow into books and film series all on their own. Maybe it will take a few years or maybe a decade, but there will be more battles involving the witches and wizards and other creatures of Rowling’s magical world.