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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 |

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | September 17, 2012 |

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!


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.


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.


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.


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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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.