How to keep up with the changing world of Hollywood franchises

An Avengers fan poses dressed as Gamora.
An Avengers fan poses dressed as Gamora.
Image: REUTERS/Mike Blake
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Navigating news about movie franchises can be a challenge. There’s always so much of it, from so many sources, and everyone has opinions! All that stuff can be a movie buff’s dream, but only if you know how to sift through it all to consume what’s really valuable. Here’s how I stay up to date and informed on all franchise goings-on:

Monitor the trades. Most big Hollywood news is broken by one of the three major industry trade publications: The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, or Deadline. Often, all three will receive the same tip and write slightly different versions of the same story within minutes of one another. If you’re interested in the film business—and franchises specifically—they’re all worth a follow on Twitter. Just keep in mind that sometimes these publications are fed information directly from publicists, executives, and agents, so approach them with a discerning eye.

The only one of the three trades whose homepage I check regularly is the Hollywood Reporter. Its stories are typically well-sourced and go a bit deeper than your average news item. This recent story about what went wrong with the latest X-Men movie is a good example, tying the failure of the film to the industry’s attempt to re-evaluate how it approaches some of its oldest franchises. THR’s box office analysis stories are also usually a cut above the field.

Bookmark Box Office Mojo. The box office tracking site, owned by IMDb, is an utterly indispensable resource for anyone following Hollywood franchises. It is packed with great data, broken down in a variety of helpful ways. You can track box office by film, director, producer, actor, week, month, year, genre, country, franchise (this one is big!), and pretty much every other category in the movie business. And it’s completely free.

If you can spare the $150 per year ($12.50 per month), IMDb Pro is also a solid database for cinephiles. It sometimes contains information about Hollywood players’ current and future projects that isn’t yet public knowledge. And if you ever find yourself in need of reaching out to publicists, managers, agents, or production companies, it contains a lot of their contact information.

Dabble in the Reddit conversation. Reddit can be an acquired taste, but I’ve found that being involved in conversations about movies has helped both my reporting and my overall understanding of how Hollywood decisions affect consumers. On r/movies, users are super interested in tracking the next big franchises and assessing the success of existing ones. It offers a nice populist counter to the trade publications, which are mostly written by and for industry insiders.

Follow smart people on Twitter. Matthew Ball, a media analyst and the former head of strategy at Amazon Studios, always brings an interesting perspective to discussions about the business of entertainment. Follow him on Twitter for his data-heavy arguments about Hollywood, and check out his frequent posts on REDEF, like this one arguing that audiences aren’t actually getting tired of Star Wars movies, despite some missteps by Disney.

Here are some other reporters I follow for their insights and news-breaking:

The Ringer also has some really creative entertainment journalism from a variety of voices and opinions. For great writing about the movie industry, I like to check out the long-reads on Vanity Fair and the New Yorker.

Stay on top of the big events. If you can’t go in person, the big events to follow from afar are San Diego Comic-Con (held every July; this year’s version just ended), CinemaCon (held every March in Las Vegas), and the fall film festival slate (namely Venice in August and Toronto in September—there are others, but most don’t screen corporate franchise films).

The months to be most aware of Hollywood happenings are, well, right now—most franchise movies come out over the summer—and from October until the end of the year, otherwise known as “Oscar season.” While that later window is when many of the best movies tend to come out, studios are increasingly reserving space toward the end of the calendar for their big event films, especially around the holiday season. Charlie’s Angels, Frozen 2,  and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will all be November and December releases.

You will inevitably miss something. That’s okay! Hollywood is such a gigantic industry, and it moves at such a fast pace, that there will always be something you can’t go in-depth on. Here’s an example: I wrote an entire section in the State of Play about the film adaptation of Akira only to find out hours later that it had been put on hold. Had I been on Twitter, and not writing, I would have found that out sooner, but, alas. You can’t live on Twitter or Reddit. The best way to understand the movies is to watch some! So take a break from all this reading and go see what’s playing at your local theater.