It's finally happened: after a lengthy court case, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon has approved the AT&T-Time Warner merger. The Justice Department had argued that the merger would lead to fewer choices for customers and higher prices for television and internet services; they'd been unable to prove their case to Leon's satisfaction, and their attempt to block the merger has finally been overturned.
It's important to understand just why this merger has happened. The entertainment industry is currently undergoing a seismic change, and companies believe they need two things in order to compete; an archive of quality content, and a strong, national (preferably global) digital distribution network. In the case of the AT&T-Time Warner merger, AT&T has the network, and Time Warner has a massive content library including some classic franchises.
Some of these franchises are ripe for relaunch, while others will sit on AT&T's back catalogue, potentially forming a core part of a future digital offering. In the case of Time Warner, this service would need to incorporate a wide range of R-rated horror content, meaning this could be a real rival to current streaming services.
This Page: Ongoing Franchises
One of the most successful modern horror franchises, The Conjuring is released under the New Line imprint. The films are based on the real-life adventures of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren; given the length of the Warrens' career, there's potentially no end to the franchise. The Nun releases this year and Warner Bros. has scheduled Annabelle 3 for 2019, and AT&T will definitely want to keep this franchise going.
The DC Extended Universe
The DC Extended Universe has had something of a troubled start, but its films contain some of the biggest brands in the world - iconic characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. The studio is hoping to put past controversy behind it, with a focus on upcoming films such as Aquaman, Shazam!, and Wonder Woman 2.
Behind-the-scenes, DC Films is currently undergoing a significant corporate restructure, with Walter Hamada appointed president in January. Chief creative officer Geoff Johns has recently stepped down, abandoning the exec role and instead returning to creating new content. The plan for the future is slowly becoming clear, making this a strong franchise going forward.
Related: Casting The Bat Family For The DCEU
Warner Bros. owns all of DC Entertainment and, in addition to the DCEU, is interested in developing a series of "Elseworlds-esque" movies - standalone films that are set in a different reality to the DCEU. The first of these will be an as-yet-untitled Joker origin story, with Joaquin Phoenix reportedly in talks to play the Joker. But it's also possible that both Ava DuVernay's New Gods and Matt Reeves's The Batman will actually be separate from the DCEU as well.
The DC Comics portfolio has almost unlimited potential for movie adaptations. While it's most famous for its Justice League characters - notably Batman and Superman - the comic book publisher has actually created a wide range of concepts and ideas. 2006's award-winning V for Vendetta, for example, was a political thriller, a dystopian science-fiction film, and an adroit social commentary. AT&T would be wise to dig deep into DC's various comic book imprints.
Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts
Harry Potter's story may be over, but J. K. Rowling returned to the franchise in 2016's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Essentially a prequel series of films, Fantastic Beasts tells the story of Eddie Redmayne's Newt Scamander. The franchise will continue in November, with the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Rowling reportedly has plans for a whole series of films, leading to the final battle between Dumbledore and Grindelwald in 1945. That's enough to keep the franchise going for at least another decade or so (and then, of course, Harry could return).
The LEGO Movies
Based on the construction toys, LEGO is a hugely popular range of films associated with writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Work is currently underway on The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, due to release in 2019, while a spinoff The Billion Brick Race is currently in limbo. The franchise hasn't grown at the rates expected, but more sequels are likely. Given the kid-focus this is a strong get for AT&T.
2015's critically-acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road is generally viewed as one of the best action films of the decade - if not all time. It was the first film in the Mad Max franchise to be nominated for an Academy Award, and won six of its ten nominations. According to George Miller and Brendan McCarthy, during production they found they had enough material for two additional scripts, and Tom Hardy is signed up to star in three more parts of the series. Unfortunately, sequels have been held up by a lawsuit between Miller and Warner Bros.. It's unclear how the AT&T merger affects that, but the franchise is definitely still on audience's minds.
Ace Venture: Pet Detective
1994's Ace Ventura: Pet Detective was the launchpad for Jim Carrey's film career. Although the film received generally unfavorable reviews from the critics, it swiftly became a cult classic, and was followed by two sequels. Surprisingly enough, last year Morgan Creek - who partnered with Warner Bros. on the films - announced that they were planning to relaunch the franchise. Morgan Creek is looking to relaunch most of its properties as network TV shows, but considered Ace Ventura ideal for either a movie or a TV series. There's been no news since October 2017, though, so it doesn't sound like there's been much interest in this particular relaunch. It will be interesting to see whether the AT&T merger improves Ace Ventura's chance of returning to the big screen.
Created by comedy actor Mike Myers, the Austin Powers films are a tremendous satire of the traditional spy genre. The series as is consists of three popular films, but Myers has long discussed his hopes for a fourth. Production was delayed by the death of Verne Troyer in 2017, but Myers has stressed that he's still willing to return for Austin Powers 4.
Friday the 13th
In 2013, New Line relinquished the rights to future Friday the 13th films as part of a deal that allowed Warner Bros. to co-produce Interstellar. Paramount began work on a reboot under the working title Friday the 13th: Part 13, but canceled it after the poor box office performance of Rings. The rights are expected to revert back to New Line sometime this year, meaning a whole other round of development could begin. However, there are still some writer issues to sort out.
There have long been rumors that Warner Bros. is interested in relaunching the hugely popular Gremlins franchise, and in April this year writer/director Chris Columbus confirmed the project is still in the works. "It will almost definitely be a reboot," he noted. Progress has been slow going, but it's possible the AT&T merger will speed it up.
There have long been rumblings of a potential fifth Lethal Weapon film, which would-be director Richard Donner has confirmed would be released under the title Lethal Weapon: Lethal Finale. Unfortunately, to date the studio has shown little interest, and Donner has expressed frustration with the Warner Bros. legal department. The property has now proven to be a very successful TV show, so it's unclear where the value lies now.
Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit
A New Line Cinema production that became Warner Bros' after they purchased the subsidiary, The Lord of the Rings are one of the 21st Century's biggest hits, dominating the box office, earning rave reviews and winning 17 out of 30 total Academy Award nominations. The final film, Return of the King, won all 11 of its Academy Awards. The Hobbit prequel trilogy was less well received, but still proved a box office barnstormer.
While those six movies mean the major books of Tolkien's Middle-Earth are tapped, there's plenty of other areas to go. Indeed, Amazon is currently working on a Lord of the Rings prequel TV series.
A revolutionary science-fiction created by the Wachowski brothers, The Matrix film released in 1999, and was noted for its remarkable "bullet time" photography. In light of the movie's success, the Wachowskis extended the concept - of a Messianic freedom fighter battling against digital overlords - into a full trilogy. Neither of the sequels had the same cultural impact as the first film, though; it's actually been preserved by the National Film Registry. The Matrix remains one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time, and a relaunch is in the works. Zak Penn is currently working on a script. As it's only in early development, though, the AT&T merger could have an impact.
Inspired by the Mortal Kombat video-games, the film franchise has been fairly popular. Warner Bros. has had a new film in the works since 2011, with the original script compared to an R-rated version of The Avengers. Production seems to have stalled, however.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
In 2010, New Line attempted to relaunch the legendary horror franchise Nightmare on Elm Street, recasting Freddy Kreuger and aiming to return the series to its chiller roots (as opposed to the comedy it became). The relaunch was unsuccessful, but there have been rumors of another attempted relaunch. If there's one thing audiences have learned, it's that Freddy never stays dead for long.
In 1984, Warner Bros. launched the Police Academy series, a comedy franchise that saw an American city announce a policy to allow any applicants to join the police force - resulting in some very unlikely candidates! The franchise was a tremendous success, with it often compared to the Carry On films. There have long been rumors about an eighth Police Academy movie, but production stalled in 2012.
Page 3 of 3: Franchises for the Back Catalogue
1982's Blade Runner, an adaptation of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, initially underperformed at the box office. It became a cult classic, though, and last year was revisited with Blade Runner 2049. In January 2018, director Ridley Scott revealed that he has plans for another Blader Runner sequel. "I've got another one ready to evolve and be developed," he noted, "so there is certainly one to be done for sure." Unfortunately, Blade Runner 2049 grossed less than $260 million in the global box office, meaning its unlikely Scott's idea will ever be made.
Related: Blade Runner 2049's Ending Explained
Released under the New Line Cinema imprint, the Critters films are essentially a far darker version of Gremlins. The film series began in 1986, telling the story of a group of bounty hunters who travel to an American town in order to hunt the ravenous Krites. The Krites are the real monsters of the franchise, ravenous beasts who do nothing but eat and breed. Verizon has recently ordered a new Critters TV series.
Dumb and Dumber
Warner Bros. has shown no interest in producing more Dumb and Dumber films, and in fact the last movie - 2013's Dumb and Dumber To - was released by Universal Pictures, with New Line getting a studio credit. Realistically, there's no reason the AT&T purchase should change anything for this franchise, so the first two films will simply remain on the Warner Bros. catalogue.
A popular horror film franchise, The Exorcist films began in 1973 with William Friedkin's undisputed classic. The franchise has moved to the small-screen, with 21st Century Fox developing a TV series back in 2016; that was canceled in May after two seasons.
The first Final Destination film was released in 2000, launching one of the most popular comedy horror franchises of the 21st century. The film actually began as a spec script written by Jeffrey Reddick for an episode of The X-Files, but morphed into a film of its own right. It spawned four sequels, as well as a series of novels and comic books.
Back in 1993, Warner Bros. launched the Free Willy franchise, a charming series of films that saw teenagers bond with a captive killer whale known as Whilly. The franchise was rebooted with 2010's Free Willy: Escape from Pirate's Cove, which was essentially a remake of the first film. It was released direct-to-DVD, and no future films have been discussed.
Jim Carrey's 1994 classic The Mask, based on Dark Horse's comic book series, was released under the New Line imprint. A critically-acclaimed standalone sequel, Son of the Mask, was released in 2005. There have been occasional rumblings about a third Mask film, but so far that's failed to build any momentum.
The NeverEnding Story
The classic fantasy franchise The NeverEnding Story is also a Warner Bros. property, and would certainly be part of AT&T's digital library. Inspired by the novel written by Michael Ende, the films explore the adventures of Bastian Balthazar Bux, who opens up a book and finds himself transported to the magical land of Fantastica.