Vin Diesel is back in the headlines thanks to the success of Riddick, which won last weekend's box office battle and now appears all but guaranteed to pull in profits for Comcast's (CMCSA 0.14%) Universal Studios.

Vin Diesel as the title character in Riddick. Source: Universal Pictures.

Riddick is Diesel's third try playing the character, a cold-blooded killer who can see in the dark. His last outing, 2004's The Chronicles of Riddick, had a tougher time earning its keep. A movie franchise this isn't, which is ironic when you think about Diesel's history as a franchise builder:

Vin Diesel's Films
Rotten Tomatoes
(% Fresh)
Production Budget
Worldwide Box Office

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)


$160 million

$787.9 million

Fast Five (2011)


$125 million

$626.1 million

Saving Private Ryan (1998)


$70 million

$481.8 million

Fast and Furious (2009)


$85 million

$363.2 million

XXX (2002)


$70 million

$277.4 million

The Fast and the Furious (2001)


$38 million

$207.3 million

The Pacifier (2005)


$56 million

$198.6 million

The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)


$105 million

$115.7 million

Babylon A.D. (2008)


$70 million

$72.1 million

Pitch Black (2000)


$23 million

$53.2 million

A Man Apart (2003)


$36 million

$44.4 million

Riddick (2013)


$38 million

$33.9 million so far

Boiler Room (2000)


$26 million

$28.8 million

Knockaround Guys (2002)


$15 million

$14.1 million

Find Me Guilty (2006)


$13 million

$2.6 million


 46% average

$930 million

$3,307.1 million

Sources: Rotten Tomatoes, Box Office Mojo.

As an investor who enjoys betting on promising movie franchises, I take two things from this table:

  1. Fast & Furious is shaping up to be one of the greatest movie franchises of all time. Six films over 12 years. More than $600 million in worldwide ticket sales for each of the past two movies. Diesel starred in both and has appeared in four Fast & Furious films, with 2003's 2 Fast 2 Furious and 2006's The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift featuring other performers. (Though, to be fair, Diesel appeared in a cameo at the close of Tokyo Drift.)

  2. Diesel owes Justin Lin a big thank-you. Though the Fast & Furious movie franchise accounts for barely 27% of his 15 name big-screen performances, Diesel's appearances in those four films were also the franchise's biggest earners, with a combined $2 billion in box-office receipts -- or 60% of his films' lifetime gross. Justin Lin has directed three of Diesel's four Fast & Furious appearances.

So yes, franchises matter. A lot.

For its part, Walt Disney (DIS -0.03%) is hoping Diesel will help the company's Marvel Studios subsidiary transform an unknown team of cosmic defenders called the Guardians of the Galaxy into a budding movie franchise. He's been cast to supply the voice for Groot, a giant alien that resembles a tree but is capable of so much more. Guardians opens in theaters on Aug. 1, 2014.