State of the Franchise: Monsters, Inc./Monsters University

By Jay Barney

July 17, 2013

I bet it looks so small to them now that they're all grown up.

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In today’s box office world, when a film makes money, studios will consider a sequel. Movie-making is a business and executives want profits. Sure, new ideas do get support and original stories come out all of the time. However, there is substantially less risk in bringing back established characters. People already bought tickets once; why wouldn’t they do so again? Within this discussion is the concept of a franchise. At what point does a film series become a franchise? Is the amount of money made part of the equation? Is the number of installments a factor?

The answer is in the eye of the beholder.

This summer, however, studios have given us a number of “part twos”. They have produced flicks that carry on stories from previous films. In some cases, this is exactly what fans want. In other instances, it’s a roll of the dice.

Grab a coffee, sit back, and enjoy the periodic discussion about which of this summer’s sequels may be expanding into the franchise territory.


Monsters, Inc. (2001) - 8/10

Late in 2001, Disney and Pixar released the animated film Monsters, Inc. It came on the success of previous mega hits like Toy Story (1995), A Bug’s Life (1998), and Toy Story 2 (1999). These are great movies; some enjoy near classic status. On a rainy day, any parent would feel comfortable putting them in the DVD player and grabbing a couple hours of personal time. They are child friendly, boast amazing animation, feature lovable characters, and entertain the kids. What more could a parent ask for?

On the surface, Monsters, Inc. was a bit of a risk. Would mothers and fathers embrace a project where the storyline had creatures scaring children? The Toy Story films were almost no brainers. Toys coming to life? Money in the bank. And Bugs? What kid isn’t fascinated by them at some point? But monsters terrifying our children in their beds? It was instantly a hit and joined the ranks of Pixar and Disney’s superior animation.

The scheduling was pretty much a master stroke as it was released just after Halloween. The choices around late October usually feature some hack and slash (Thir13en Ghosts and From Hell were in the top ten at the time), but a family film centered on scary creatures was perfect scheduling. It was only a few weekends away from the coveted Thanksgiving holiday, where almost all options experience strong holds. Sure, it was nearly two months away from Christmas and some of the most profitable days of the year, but a good film with solid legs can make significant coin at the end of the December.

Monsters, Inc. surpassed even the wildest expectations. During the first week of November it opened to a strong $62 million. One of the true tests of a blockbuster is how well it performs over its second frame, and it was a beast. The animated juggernaut easily beat out two new openers, grabbed another $45 million, and experienced a very slight drop of 27%. Harry Potter arrived on screens in week three, but Monsters, Inc. was running on all cylinders throughout the holidays. Over the Thanksgiving frame, it made another $25 million and brought in more money than it had the previous weekend. On top of that, it outpaced three openers. Through most of December it experienced drops of only 25%. Between Christmas and New Years it lost screens but enjoyed the holiday bump and made even more money. It wasn’t until week 11 that it dropped out of the top ten.

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