By Wenlei Ma.
Remember when you used to watch a movie - and then that was it? Ninety minutes and you're done.
Nowadays, the big releases at your local cinema will usually be a sequel, prequel, remake or part of a massive franchise.
Last year, the top 10 movies list by box office takings in Australia was dominated by franchises. Only two weren't part of an existing franchise - Zootopia and Secret Life of Pets - and they've both got sequels coming, so they will be part of a franchise soon enough. In 2015, The Martian was the lone non-franchise entry in the top 10.
Franchises are inescapable. Some of them are even pretty good - I know, go figure.
If we're going to be bombarded with them, here's a rundown of all the biggest active franchises - how they're faring, critically and monetarily (between them, they've made $US73 billion), and what's still to come.
MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE
Number of movies so far:
16, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Upcoming: Eight movies that have been announced, including Thor: Ragnarok, Captain Marvel, Black Panther and The Avengers: Infinity War.
Biggest stars: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brie Larson, Scarlett Johansson, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba and Chris Pratt.
Global box office: $US11.7 billion (not including Spider-Man)
Average Rotten Tomatoes score: 82. High/low - Iron Man: 94/Thor: The Dark World: 66
The biggest shared movie universe started with the first Iron Movie almost a decade ago and since then Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige has built a veritable movie behemoth. It's also pioneered the highly lucrative modern-day shared movie universe which other studios are now frantically rushing to replicate. People go to see Marvel movies because they know what they're going to get - a lot of whiz bang action and some snarky one-liners.
It's become so successful the franchise has attracted Oscar winners including Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Robert Redford, Michael Douglas, Benicio Del Toro, Ben Kingsley and Natalie Portman.
DC EXTENDED UNIVERSE
Four, including Wonder Woman, Batman v Superman, Man of Steel and Suicide Squad.
Upcoming: 16 (rumoured), including Justice League, Aquaman, Cyborg, The Flash, Green Lantern Corps, The Batman and Batgirl.
Stars: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Will Smith and Margot Robbie.
Box office: $US3 billion
Average RT score: 49. Wonder Woman: 92/Suicide Squad: 25
The DC Extended Universe's start was mediocre with the tepid Man of Steel but any criticism of that film was buried by the onslaught of craptitude thrown at its next two entries, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. While Suicide Squad and BvS still made hundreds of millions at the box office, they were also two expensive movies to make and promote. Happily for DC, Wonder Woman, released last month, has been hotly received by critics and fans and signals a brighter future for the DCEU.
One - The Mummy
Upcoming: Seven confirmed, including Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula and Invisible Man.
Stars: Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Javier Bardem and Johnny Depp.
Box office: $US376 million
Average RT score: 15
It's an ignominious start to the Dark Universe, a shared movie universe that will house Universal's monster movies, a reboot of a decades-long franchise the studio had in the earlier days of the talkies. But The Mummy, the first cab off the ranks, was excoriated by critics and fans. Its box office results in the US and Australia are meagre, considering its outsized budget, though its international takings were respectable, largely thanks to Tom Cruise's star power in lucrative markets such as China. Industry sources speculate that when all's said and done, The Mummy could still lose $US75 million. So things aren't looking great for the Dark Universe, which has already committed to another seven films with Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem set to headline.
10, including X-Men, Logan, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Deadpool and The Wolverine.
Upcoming: Six, including Deadpool 2, New Mutants and X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence and Ryan Reynolds.
Box office: $US4.9 billion
Average RT score: 73. Logan: 93/X-Men Origins - Wolverine: 38
If the X-Men series had ended after Logan, it would've finished on a high with the dark and gritty film marking Hugh Jackman's last turn in a role he's played for 17 years.
The longest-running current comic book movie franchise has already had a generational renewal starting with X-Men: First Class and it's set to shift focus again on yet another younger group of actors with Dark Phoenix. It also boasts the genre-skewering and cheeky Deadpool among its cohort while the New Mutants spin-off should inject fresh blood.
HARRY POTTER/FANTASTIC BEASTS
Nine, including Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.
Upcoming: Four sequels in the Fantastic Beasts series.
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint.
Box office: $US8.5 billion
Average RT score: 83. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2: 96/Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: 73.
After the uber-successful Harry Potter series wrapped its story, having run out of source material, it was inevitable that the studios would find some way to continue milking the cash cow - the last HP movie made $US1.3 billion alone. So now we have Fantastic Beasts, of which we've only seen the first of five planned in the series. The interwebs was frothing over the casting of Jude Law as young Dumbledore, or as he's now been renamed - Yumbledore - so there's much to be excited about on the horizon.
DISNEY LIVE ACTION
Six, including Beauty and the Beast, Maleficent and The Jungle Book.
Upcoming: 13, including Mulan, Aladdin, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid.
Stars: Emma Watson, Lily James, Angelina Jolie, Donald Glover, Johnny Depp
Box office: $US4.8 billion
Average RT score: 63. The Jungle Book: 95/Alice Through the Looking Glass: 30
When you already own beloved intellectual property like Disney does, why not milk it for every cent? Riding on the wave of nostalgia-fuelled discretionary spending, the live action remakes are cleverly appealing to adults as well as kids. Starting with the Tim Burton-directed Alice in Wonderland in 2010, the films have been big earners for Disney, with Beauty and the Beast sitting pretty as the global top grossing film of 2017 so far at $US1.25 billion (just a smidge ahead of The Fate of the Furious). The remakes have attracted successful filmmakers and big names - Donald Glover will voice Simba and Lin-Manuel Miranda will write new songs for The Little Mermaid. There's no stopping this runaway train.
Two - Godzilla (2014) and Kong: Skull Island
Upcoming: Two - Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Godzilla vs. Kong
Stars: Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen
Box office: $US1.09 billion
Average RT score: 75. Kong: Skull Island: 76/Godzilla: 74
The whole point of the MonsterVerse is to pit legendary monsters against each other, so everything is building towards a showdown in 2020. Who will come out on top? Godzilla? King Kong? Time will tell. But the franchise also has rights to other legendary Japanese film monsters including Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidora, which has three heads and can fly!
THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS
Eight, including The Fast and the Furious, The Fate of the Furious and Furious 7.
Upcoming: Two, plus mooted spin-offs.
Stars: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Charlize Theron, Dwayne Johnson
Box office: $US5.1 billion
Average RT score: 55. Furious 7: 80/Fast & Furious: 28
The Fast and the Furious franchise is a turbocharged machine. Few would've predicted 16 years ago that the story about racers and the undercover cop with a heart would storm its way to the top of the box office charts. The seventh movie in the franchise, Furious 7, cleaned up $US1.5 billion around the world, probably in part because of Paul Walker's death midway through filming - there was much sniffling from fanboys as that Wiz Khalifa song played. Series star Vin Diesel confirmed movies nine and 10 will be released in 2019 and 2021 respectively while Dwayne Johnson has expressed interest in Luke spin-offs.
Four, including Despicable Me and Minions.
Upcoming: Minions 2
Stars: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and minions
Box office: $US2.9 billion
Average RT score: 67. Despicable Me: 81/Minions: 56
The Despicable Me phenomenon is so much more than the four movies parents have been dragged to (although there's plenty to like if you're over 12). The frenzy can be better seen in the extraordinary power of the franchise's merchandising. Softies, iPad games and Macca's partnerships, the minions are a massive spinner for the studios, Illumination and Universal. The Minions spin-off was a listless money-grab but the main movies are charming.
Five, including Transformers and Transformers: Age of Extinction.
Upcoming: Two, including a Bumblebee spin-off
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Josh Duhamel, Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox.
Box office: $US4.2 billion
Average RT score: 28. Transformers: 57/Transformers: The Last Knight: 15
Before The Lego Movie had everyone rushing to the toy shop, Transformers had already cottoned on to this particular piece of marketing magic.
There had already been the Transformers cartoons but probably no one imagined the scale of the movie franchise that could be born out of a toy line. It's a genius capitalist play.
Of course, the movies never needed to be good to make money, not with over-the-top specialist Michael Bay at the helm. Every entry in the franchise has gotten progressively worse and more outlandish, and they're not done yet, not when there's that much money left on the table. Lord help us all.
24, including Dr. No, Skyfall, From Russia with Love and Goldfinger, but not including Casino Royale (1967) or Never Say Never Again.
Upcoming: Bond 25
Stars: Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby.
Box office: $US14.7 billion (adjusted for inflation)
Average RT score: 71. Dr No/From Russia With Love/Goldfinger: 96/A View to Kill: 36
A 55-year-old franchise, the Bond films have a box office draw that no other movie brand has managed to stretch out for this long.
While the Sean Connery films have generally been considered the apex of the series (many forget the stinkers he starred in - ahem, Diamonds are Forever, great song, terrible movie), the Daniel Craig years have seen a creative resurgence, though 2015's Spectre is best left at only one viewing.
Craig looks likely to continue in the iconic role after a press tour that more than implied he was over it - rumour is the producers are waving a pay cheque as high as $150 million to make him stay.
Nine, including Episode IV: A New Hope, Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Upcoming: Four, including Episode VIII: The Last Jedi and untitled Han Solo film.
Stars: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, Natalie Portman, Adam Driver, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac.
Box office: $US7.7 billion (unadjusted)
Average RT score: 73. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back: 94/Star Wars: The Clone Wars: 18
The biggest space opera of our time (Trekkies, please don't kill me), the Star Wars saga has been flying since 1977. George Lucas has been hailed as the genius that created it and then derided for the prequel series that almost everyone hated.
Since selling Lucasfilm to Disney, the franchise has now been handed over to a new generation of filmmakers, including Rian Johnson who has directed the instalment due for release this December. The first two flicks of the new generation have pleased fans and critics.
Of course, the very public sacking of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the directors of the upcoming Han Solo spin-off, has led to questions over whose vision is being brought to the screen - the filmmakers or the studios?
PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN
Five, including Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
Stars: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush, Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem.
Box office: $US4.4 billion
Average RT score: 47. Curse of the Black Pearl: 79/Dead Men Tell No Tales: 29
Another movie franchise with an unusual origin - theme park rides - the Pirates of the Caribbean series is at a creative nadir with the release of Dead Men Tell No Tales this year - good reviews have been in steep decline since the rollicking first film.
Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley wisely jumped ship after the third movie. But any hope the fifth adventure would be the last was dashed when it was implied in March that more instalments are on the way.
While still profitable, especially in international markets, the franchise has increasingly been bogged down by stale storytelling and Johnny Depp's waning star power after a string of scandals including accusations of domestic violence and on-set diva behaviour.