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THE MORNING BUZZ: Franchises Are the Entertainment Equivalent of a Sure Thing

6 May, 2002 By: Stephanie Prange

Since the breakup of the studio system, film companies have been looking to reinvent those hallowed decades when they had firm control over creation and distribution of their product – the closest they would get to a sure thing. With the newest studio mantra – franchising – the film companies may be onto something.

Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Spider-Man – these franchises look to rule the movie and home video roost for some years to come -– not to mention older properties, such as Star Wars and James Bond, which are still vital and churning out new entries annually.

Luckily, on the home video front, we've got the perfect product for this new era in sellthrough-priced DVD. Franchises are made to be collected and DVD is a great video medium for collectors. It packages neatly (a seven-disc set of Harry Potter movies would be quite unwieldy in cassette form). Its extras can pump up future and past installments in the franchise. In addition to collecting the feature films, consumers can collect previous incarnations, such as old Spider-Man or Lord of the Rings cartoons.

Movie and, indeed, video release slates are planned for many years to come, ostensibly smoothing out the erratic ups and downs of one-off productions. This should help the rental business as well, which, like theaters, depends on a steady stream of new release hits to power it.

Yet, this Pollyanna can't help but point out a few possible pitfalls. J.K. Rowling, author of the famed Harry Potter series, is behind on the latest book installment, according to The New York Times. After turning out four books, one a year, she won't deliver Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix this July and it could come out after the next movie, due in the fall. That means – horror of horrors – no new Potter installment between the video (May 28) and fall movie. Will the Potter momentum slow?

Also, what's to say a franchise won't fade? The last few Batman movies lost their luster. Indeed, a colleague noted his teenage son and his friends would likely see the next Star Wars installment, but weren't nearly as excited about it as they were about Spider-Man. And what ever happened to the year of E.T.? That endearing Steven Spielberg film didn't seem to have enough gas to run a yearlong promotion. Now, that's what I would have called a sure thing.

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