How Paramount Plans to Compete in Hollywood’s Franchise Wars

The historic studio has been struggling since the early 2000s. Can it finally get back in the game?

Paramount Pictures Movies Box Office
The Transformers are just one of several properties Paramount is building into a franchise. Paramount Pictures

It’s difficult to overstate the gravitational force Paramount (PARA) Pictures has exerted on pop culture over the years, especially across the past four decades. In that time, the studio has rewired audience’s expectations of what they can see on the big screen while also forging new paths within the industry. From Psycho and The Godfather to Forrest Gump and Braveheart, it has shaped the cinematic tastes of Baby Boomers and Generation X. How? By routinely delivering adult-skewing dramas that have rightfully dominated awards seasons while simultaneously boasting massive commercial appeal.

But success and failure are cyclical, and recent years have seen Paramount trapped in the valley. As audience tastes have migrated closer to known commodities and established properties, it has started to lose in Hollywood’s franchise wars. In modern movie making, a studio that can’t consistently create repetitive cash flow (i.e., sequels) is doomed to exist on the periphery of the zeitgeist, which is where this one has settled. From 2000 to 2018, Paramount finished below the top three in domestic box-office earnings a worrisome 13 times.

In an effort to modernize, it is revamping its release schedule to maximize its franchise potential. Here’s exactly how Paramount is planning to storm back into the game.

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Transformers box office

The Hasbro Cinematic Universe

  • Transformers (TBD)
  • Power Rangers (TBD)
  • G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes (3/7/20)
  • Micronauts (8/16/20)
  • Untitled Dungeons & Dragons Reboot (7/23/21)
  • Untitled Paramount/Hasbro Event Film (8/1/21)

Hasbro Studios (rebranded as Allspark) is the media production and distribution division of the toy company Hasbro. In 2015, the company agreed to create a five-property movie universe to be distributed by Paramount Pictures. While those plans have been reduced recently, many of the main titles remain, including the rebooted Transformers continuity that begins with last year’s well-received Bumblebee (which grossed $463 million worldwide).

While the future of other franchises such as Power Rangers and M.A.S.K. is unclear at this time, Paramount is likely hoping this pact can yield multiple interconnected smaller-scale franchises.

Mission: Impossible Fallout Box Office Tom Cruise

Mission: Impossible

  • Mission: Impossible 7 (7/23/21)
  • Mission: Impossible 8 (8/5/22)

The M:I franchise is Paramount’s bread and butter at the moment. Last year’s spectacular Fallout earned a series-high $791 million worldwide as well as universal praise from fans and critics alike (Observer’s own Film Crit Hulk described it as a “master class in dramatic tension“). Not wanting to let a good thing get away, the studio quickly locked in writer and director Christopher McQuarrie for two more films.

The final two Mission: Impossible installments will, as of now, not have to directly compete with any Star Wars or Avatar blockbusters, which always helps. But skeptics are concerned that the M:I series has no room left to grow.

Dora the Explorer movie

Kid-Focused Franchises

  • Dora and the Lost City of Gold (8/2/19)
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (11/8/19)
  • The SpongeBob Movie (5/22/20)
  • Rugrats (1/29/21)

Family-friendly material is big business when executed properly, and coupling it with long-running series can definitely be advantageous. Dora the Explorer ran on Nickelodeon for 14 years, becoming one of the most popular educational animation series in the country as well as a touchstone for Latina representation. Paramount is hoping that built-in fan base will be equally enthusiastic about its live-action adaptation.

Unfortunately, early whispers surrounding Sonic are less than ideal. But SpongeBob has averaged nearly $125 million domestic over two movies, and we haven’t seen a Rugrats movie since 2003. The logic is sound—now it’s up to the execution.

A Quiet Place Sequel

“Original” Franchises

  • Terminator: Dark Fate (11/1/19)
  • Untitled A Quiet Place Sequel (5/15/20)

The Terminator series is the brainchild of James Cameron, who was not creatively involved in the last three increasingly disappointing films. That changes with Dark Fate, which Cameron will produce and Deadpool‘s Tim Miller will direct. Will that pairing, plus the return of Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, be enough to revive the franchise after several stumbles?

As for that sequel to A Quiet Place, the original—which was conceived by writers Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and writer-director John Krasinski—unexpectedly broke out to $341 million worldwide against a $17 million budget, becoming one of 2018’s most profitable films. Despite some early reluctance, Krasinski is returning to helm the follow-up. The first film was a delightful surprise, but with success comes expectations. The second installment will have far more pressure weighing on it than its predecessor.

Top Gun: Maverick

Blasts From the Past

  • Top Gun: Maverick (6/26/20)
  • Untitled Coming to America Sequel (8/70/20)

Anyone who has been following the industry recently knows that Hollywood has become fond of recycling well-liked 1980s IP. It can’t hurt for Paramount to dip a toe into this pool, though whether or not either a Top Gun or Coming to America movie can still draw an audience is another question.

Michael B. Jordan Without Remorse

The Michael B. Jordan Bandwagon

  • Without Remorse (9/18/20)
  • Rainbow Six (TBD)

Because the rights to marquee titles such as X-Men and Spider-Man had previously been sold off, Marvel Studios deserves endless credit for developing multibillion-dollar franchises out of traditionally second-tier characters. Paramount Pictures will now attempt to do something similar.

Tom Clancy is best known for his Jack Ryan character, currently being portrayed by John Krasinski on Amazon. But it’s his running mate, John Clark (the Felix Lighter to Ryan’s James Bond) that the studio is hoping to build a franchise around. Michael B. Jordan, who is quickly becoming the hardest-working man in Hollywood, is set to headline. Paramount is pulling out all the stops to punch up the material before shooting.

How Paramount Plans to Compete in Hollywood’s Franchise Wars