You’re not imagining things—movies are less original than they used to be. Sequels, prequels, reboots, and remakes are all accounting for an ever-growing share of US box-office revenue.
Since the 1980s, we’ve seen four franchise peaks, all capturing around 40% of the year’s total box office earnings. Between those peaks, the portion of top box office dollars that can be attributed to franchise movies has steadily increased. In recent years, that 40% has become the norm.
To arrive at these figures, we categorized the films that comprised 50% of the lifetime US box office revenue for movies from every year since 1980, as listed on Box Office Mojo. In some years as few as 12 movies brought in 50% of the revenue, in others it was as many as 33. The first film of a franchise was counted as part of a franchise, and only films that had another theatrically released feature film associated with it were categorized as franchises. In other words, direct-to-video sequels were not considered part of a franchise, nor were tv shows, or stage productions. Movies were considered part of a franchise only if there were other same-language movies in the series, as either a prequel, sequel, reboot, or remake, and only if a subsequent film was released prior to 2019.