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7 Keys to Building a Successful Movie Franchise Without Even F*cking Trying

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | September 17, 2012 | Comments ()


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1) Hire a cheap, generic director with a flair for visuals but no real storytelling ability -- Say, Len Wiseman -- a props assistant who made his debut as writer/director of Underworld -- and Paul W.S. Anderson, essentially a direct-to-DVD director who gained some camp notoriety with terrible films like Mortal Kombat and Soldier.

2) Without any Regard to Her Acting Ability, Hire a Hot Woman Who Looks Great in Leather and Give Her a Gun -- Say, Kate Beckinsale or Milla Jovovich, who make relatively little compared to other franchise stars and who, in fact, look great in tight-fitting pants while holding a gun. Dudes love chicks holding guns, especially if they're also wearing leather. It's Science! It also helps if the director and star are married and come as a package deal. It's cheaper that way!

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3) Zombies, Werewolves, and Vampires -- You can never go wrong with one of those, especially if you call them something else like Lycans but maintain the same qualities you know and love from thousands of other movies.

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4) Fill the Cast with Cheap, Recognizable Faces -- Look! It's that guy we know from that show. Oh, what's his name? Scott Speedman! Michelle Rodriguez. Michael Sheen. James Purefoy. Eric Mabius. Ali Larter. Wentworth Miller. Oded Fehr. Sophia Myles. Rhona Mitra.

5) Maintain a Relatively Small Budget -- The Underworld movies have averaged around a $35 million budget per film, while the Resident Evil movies have averaged around $45 million per film. There's no point in spending more at this point because an improved product is not actually likely to improve the box-office take. Besides, audiences know what to expect and they don't want to be surprised by something like quality filmmaking or character development.

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6) Ensure That the Film Opens with Little or No Competition -- This is the most important aspect of building a successful movie franchise without trying. Pick a quiet weekend during dumping ground season where movie-starved audiences have no other options. Resident Evil, for instance, always picks a weekend in mid-September, and has managed to become the number one film at the box office four times, beating out the likes of Good Luck Chuck, the Finding Nemo remake, Cellular and Takers.

Meanwhile, the Underworld movies usually open January (except that one year when Resident Evil left an opening in September) against the likes of Red Tails, Hoodwinked and Second Hand Lions. Thanks to this strategy, of the nine Underworld and Resident Evil movies, seven have opened at number one at the box office.

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7) Profit: All told, the five Resident Evil movies have accumulated $746 million worldwide so far, while the four Underworld movies have made $458 million. Resident Evil movies have an average profit of approximately $105 million per film, while the Underworld films net about $80 million per film. With profits like those, and relatively little overhead, minimal effort, and enough moviegoers whose inertia is more powerful than their apathy, the Resident Evil and Underworld movies can continue on for years to come!

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Penny Marie Sautereau

    Why do some people think a movie HAS to be an oscar contender to be any fun to watch? I mean seriously, Quentin Tarantino's oscar nominated movies are bizarre narratively disjointed cheesy overacted crap that pretentiously try and fail to be avant garde art flicks with violence. Underworld and Resident Evil are a boatload more fun to watch and actually make more narrative sense.

    ALL a movie needs to be is fun, entertaining, engaging and make basic narrative sense, and the UW/RE flicks do that very well, without trying to be anything but lightweight popcorn munching fun. Get over yourselves people, take the stick out already.

  • Der Langhaarige

    Y'know, I don't like those RESIDENT EVIL movies either, but a full article about how much they suck, disguised as some kind of Hollywood satire, is just sad.

  • sherlockzz

    Resident Alien vs. Underpredator... it's destiny.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    I can totally picture Milla Jovovich at 80 (still looking fantastic), kicking ass in Resident Evil: the Assisted Living Years... or Resident Nursing Home Evil.

  • I'm still yet to see any iteration of either of these franchises. Which is strange cos I Iike braindead just as much as anyone else. Hey, maybe my subconscious is smarter than my normal thinking.
    Fuck off, subconscious! Both of those ladies are very pretty.

  • AudioSuede

    This is actually a pretty insightful (and typically hilarious) look into how these movies achieve financial success.

  • Marie

    Sometimes a movie is just to have fun. Lighten up!

  • piedlourde

    Nah, I'd rather watch good "brain on autopilot" movies. We have the Lethal Weapon franchise to fill that need, people!

  • 8) A SHITLOAD OF BUCKLES.

    PUT GODDAM BUCKLES ON FUCKING EVERYTHING.

  • Right! First the skin tight leather for the tease, then the goddamn infini-ckles for a purgatory-length of time unbuckling!

  • When can we expect Predator vs...
    Because Underworld vs Resident Evil just won't fly, will it?

  • hapl0

    The first Resident Evil doesn't count so can you please remove the offensive gif?

  • Khal Mifune

    I understand your point. A lot of similarities. I get it. But comparing Kate Beckinsale to lovely, lovely Milla is all sorts of wrong. I know it's kind of ridiculous to bring up acting when discussing these franchises, but if I may...
    In the RE films, Alice goes everywhere emotionally from terrified to vengeful. She can be tender, confused, desperate, as well as hard as fuck. Jovovich is great, and (big surprise) the main reason why I keep watching these movies.
    In the Underworld series, Selene is a lycan-killing robot. Emotionless and boring. I'm not blaming Beckinsale, that's how the character was written, but still.

    Also, have you seen dummy? Milla Jovovich is the bee's knees.

  • Maintain a Relatively Small Budget

    This is key - Keep your costs down, make a profit - cha-ching, you get to come back and do it again.

  • Pookie

    Maybe it Kevin Smith used your formula, Rowles, he wouldn’t need to sell his dvds out of the back of his van.

  • Kevin Smith put hot women in tight pants holding guns in his Jay and Silent Bob movie (one was his wife, even). I'm pretty sure that was his biggest box office, too.

    http://www.the-medium-is-not-e...

    He didn't learn that lesson.

  • Jezzer

    "Kevin Smith put hot women and his wife in tight pants holding guns..."

    Fixed that for ya. No offense, but it's like "Featuring Ali Larter! And Eliza Dushku! And Shannon Elizabeth! And that Passably Attractive Woman Who Reads to the Kids on Thursdays at the Library!"

  • Fabius_Maximus

    And not one of you mentions Bill Nighy. Shame on you.

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    Look, the hate just needs to end, Rowles. Sometimes I *want* to watch something where the lighting has just been blue gelled to hell, the lead is 98 pound-ass-kicking-vaguely-Euro-pretty-lady, and the bad guys are post-apocalyptic werepire zombies. Don't make me hike up my pants and lecture an empty chair about this because I'm feeling pretty get off my lawny.

    #Still better than Battleship

  • Delle

    "post-apocalyptic werepire zombies"
    ...I have no words to express my glee at the awesomeness that is this...a better phrase to describe the current trend in movies/tv there is not

  • tmoney

    Whatever, the sex scene in the storage container in Underworld (or maybe it's Underworld: Evolution)is hot and Scott Speedman is not hard on the eyes. Michael Sheen is also a delight.

  • Groundloop

    The Resident Evil franchise > the Underworld franchise, except for the first movie of each, because the first Underworld had Michael Sheen chewing scenery and necks. Also, in the Resident Evil movies the bugfuckery is usually well lit.

  • emmelemm

    But the third one had Michael Sheen positively SHREDDING the scenery (awesome).

  • Groundloop

    Good point. The problem I have with Rise of the Lycans is that I kept getting distracted by Rhona Mitra, wondering when she was going to do the thing with her camera/eyeball. And then I'd remember that was in Doomsday, and then I'd think that it's unfortunate (for me) how much Malcolm McDowell charges for an autograph, and then I'd get to thinking about the reprogramming scene in Clockwork Orange, and then I'd remember the camera/eyeball thing again and that would get me thinking that I really should re-watch Dog Soldiers and The Descent.

    My brain can be an odd place to live sometimes.

  • emmelemm

    Shit, man, we're clearly on the same drugs, because that's about how my mind works too.

  • Malware

    Oooooohhhhhhh, I misread that article title, I thought it said 7 reasons why I hate the Underworld and Resident Evil franchises!.....

  • BierceAmbrose

    Wow.

    Those numbers are in the same ballpark as the target returns on venture or private-equity funds. Maybe better. Add in hollywoodland accounting and we'll be seeing more of these until Milla gets hip replacements or they stop making custom-fit pleather in black.

    Um, I'm OK with that.

  • Pookie

    Apparently you’ve never seen Milla’s nipples, the size of shot glasses, no lie. She’s in Rene Russo’s class, dare I might even say, Naomi Watts' class.

  • BierceAmbrose

    So, your saying worth a pension fund or three for a peek?

  • Seriously, those things will put your eye out.

  • Fredo

    You forgot the last and most important bullet point:

    - When you've topped out everything, bring the two franchises together. Bonus points if you manage an epic lesbo make-out session between your two stars that can be used to sell it to the legions of teenager boys who can think of nothing greater.

  • They need to give you a commission when they do this. Because now that you've put it out in the world, it's ON.

  • Patrick the Bunny

    I've never actually gone and seen any of these movies in a theater, but dammit if I don't love watching them on cable. Same for the Final Destination movies.

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    You're making all of these points sound as if they're bad things.

  • Groundloop

    Yeah, as I was reading I kept waiting for the ZING!!

  • the sex scene in the storage container in Underworld (or maybe it's Underworld: Evolution)is hot and Scott Speedman is not hard on the eyes. Michael Sheen is also a delight...A1Job.notlong.com

  • Mr_Zito

    I've never watched any of those movies, and every time they release a new one I'm shocked for how it keeps on going. And you missed one important aspect, that is how well those movies do overseas and on TV, because of how generic they are and the familiar "beasts" they make the perfect programming for random audience. The next logical step is RESIDENT EVIL VERSUS UNDERWORLD. But for that to make sense first they have to stop making money by themselves.

  • Pinky McLadybits

    I love both of these franchises. I DON'T CARE. TAKE YOUR SCORN AND SHOVE IT UP YOUR BOOTY-HOLE!

  • No Pithy Name

    Scornhole-d
    Sorry I was late.

  • Natallica

    "Dudes love chicks holding guns, especially if they’re also wearing leather". Hey! Not only dudes! Girls love that too!. And probably most animals too!. Well, not cows, of course, I don't think they would be too happy about the "leather" part.

  • Pinky McLadybits

    Eh, it's probably latex or pleather. Cows are totes down with that!

  • emmelemm

    "Yeah!"

  • lowercase_ryan

    1) How dare you leave Mike Epps off that list.
    2) I really liked the original Resident Evil story
    3) one of the coolest nerd things I've ever seen was on the back of a little Honda Civic street racer some years ago. In big letters across the back bumper it said: "PROPERTY OF UMBRELLA CORP." with the Umbrella Corp. logo. I had a nerdgasm on the freeway.

  • BWeaves

    OK, I thought the Resident Evil and Underworld movies were the same movie franchise. This is probably because I thought one was called Resident Evil: Underworld and the other one was called Underworld: Resident Evil. Also: I thought Kate Beckinsale and Milla Jojojojojovich were the same person.

  • Natallica

    Well, until some time ago, I thought that both franchises were directed by the same person. ¿Paul W. S. Wiseman? ¿Len Anderson? Whatever

  • F. Robert

    In that last gif...

    ...Tig? Is that you?

    ...why? Just, why?

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    People from Saskatchewan are overly polite and don't know how to say no. Trust me.

  • Robert

    I like the Resident Evil franchise. I know it's not great. The first one, in particular, is a struggle to get through because of the quality of effects.

    I would be over the moon if the series suddenly allowed for character development and maybe some better acting moments. A low budget is not an excuse for poor dialogue. And enjoying a franchise does not mean that I'm satisfied with its quality and wouldn't welcome improvements.

  • emmelemm

    I love it with the white hot passion of a thousand suns. C'mon, man, it's Alice! I thought we (Pajiba) loved Alice and would never, never turn on her.

    But yeah, the acting (in Resident Evil) has always sucked donkey balls.

  • Uriah_Creep

    I thought we (Pajiba) loved Alice and would never, never turn on her.

    Pajiba is a fickle bitch.

  • pajiba

    I'm at Selene man, myself. #TeamUnderworld

  • TK

    The fact that you have the balls to write this article after making ME sit through the Resident Evil movie... I swear, there are fucking salt miners who work under better conditions.

    Douche.

  • Me too, though hard not to like both of them. That said, the headline photo is the worst photo of Kate I have seen.

  • emmelemm

    Fair enough. It takes all kinds.

    To me, though, Kate Beckinsale is the *worst* thing about the Underworld franchise (even though I like 1 and 3). I'm mainly in it for the Michael Sheen and the huge black guy with the gravelly voice.

    Whereas Milla is the *best* thing about the Resident Evils, and, good news, she's in all of them!

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    Team Milla all the way. She gave us Leeloodallasmultipass. All is forgiven. ALL.

  • emmelemm

    Named my dog LeeLoo. True story.

  • Robert

    I also remember how the last film was met with a lot of Alice love around here. Very fast turn around on that.

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