What’s ahead for franchises, theaters

Timothee Chalamet stars in Warner Bros.’ “Dune.”

Warner Bros.

Mean girls, Spider-Women and sandworms will headline the 2024 box office — and they’ll have to do some heavy lifting.

The March 1 release of “Dune: Part Two,” the delayed and much-anticipated follow-up to Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 science fiction epic is expected to attract hordes of moviegoers.

It’s arguably the most notable release in what’s slated to be a franchise frenzy this year, as studios such as Warner Bros., Disney, Universal and Paramount lean on familiar titles to entice audiences back into theaters. But moviegoers may be tiring of these IP-driven films. Some of 2023’s standouts had fresh ideas and unique appeal.

“Dune: Part Two” is followed by a slew of sequels, prequels and spinoffs from franchises such as Ghostbusters, Gladiator, Bad Boys, A Quiet Place, Planet of the Apes, Transformers, Alien, Sonic the Hedgehog and Saw. Yet, it’s unclear if a return to these stories will lure audiences in the new year.

Even before Hollywood was disrupted by writers’ and an actors’ strikes, halting production and delaying some releases, 2024 was expected to be a tumultuous year. After the Covid-19 pandemic, the domestic box office has struggled to fully regain audiences even with tempting titles from major franchises. 

For many entertainment experts, 2025 was the flag on the recovery horizon, a time when moviegoers would be back in the habit and there’d be enough film product to keep them coming back. Now, they aren’t so sure.

“Sometimes an industry has to take two steps backwards before going forward again,” said Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations. “[This] year could certainly surprise. However, the odds are it will be an off year.”

IP fatigue

Studios are hoping the upcoming franchise offerings will be more like the successes of “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” or “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and less like flops including “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” and “The Marvels.”

Audiences don’t mind new content from their favorite brands, but studios have learned a tough lesson in recent years — less is more.

DC Studios and Marvel have inundated fans with a slew of content, much of which wasn’t up to the standard of previous iterations. This led to diminishing box office returns. Yet, when new entrants are carefully crafted, audiences respond with their wallets.

After all, Matt Reeves’ “The Batman,” a stand-alone film starring Robert Pattinson as the Dark Knight, generated more than $750 million in ticket sales globally back in 2022. James Gunn’s last Marvel film, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” secured about $845 million worldwide this past year.

“People just want to be entertained; to see compelling stories told in a masterful way,” said Michael O’Leary, CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners. “People, having been deprived of those kinds of public experiences, are seeking them more and more. And, candidly, their expectations are higher than ever.”

This year,…

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