Franchises come and franchises go. And then, sometimes, they come back again. The last decade has seen the film industry mine previously lapsed properties in hopes of reclaiming past glories and providing audiences with entertainment products that are at once new and familiar. Successful examples of this strategy include Batman Begins, Casino Royale, Transformers, and Star Trek. Each of these movies managed to win back audiences and lay the groundwork for ongoing series.
Of course, not all rebooted properties wind up as winners. 2008's The Incredible Hulk failed to meaningfully improve over its predecessor, and Sony's (NYSE:SNE) "Amazing Spider-Man" series is looking much weaker than its previous trilogy.
Reboots are tricky, and it's difficult to overstate the importance of timing when reintroducing properties that have spent some time lying fallow. The remainder of 2014 sees four film reboots vying for box office glory and the right to return to ongoing series development. Which of the year's reboots are on track to join the winner's circle and which properties will be forced back into the waiting game?
The King of the Monsters' May 16 return to American cinemas comes with a healthy dose of expectations. Tracking for the Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) film suggests that it will earn between $60 million and $75 million in its opening frame, but overseas draw will be the real test for the movie. Godzilla's box office performance will be weighed against last year's Pacific Rim, which earned approximately $411 million on the back of a strong foreign performance.
The most recent Godzilla reboot should succeed where its 1998 predecessor failed. Even though the previous reboot put up decent numbers, it failed to spawn an ongoing franchise. Look for brand recognition, a strong cast, and solid critical reception to drive Godzilla above $600 million in global take. This weekend's big opener could also benefit from a decidedly modern oddity: not being a superhero movie. The action genre has been dominated by capes and spandex in recent months, and audiences could be seeking some variety.
2014 has been a big year for Christian-centric pictures, with both TriStar's Heaven Is for Real and Pure Flix Entertainment's God's Not Dead rocketing past their production and marketing budgets. The upcoming Left Behind from Stony Lake Entertainment is a reboot of a property that's last notable big screen outing came in 2001, with former teen star and current televangelist Kirk Cameron in the lead role. The 2014 reboot will take its first bow on Oct. 3, and boasts Nicholas Cage as the big name attached.
With a meager $16 million production budget, the reboot has a decent chance of recouping costs. Don't expect it to become the next religious film phenomena, however. Early marketing materials for the film are less than promising, and the film's premise lacks the positive messaging that made Heaven Is for Real and God's Not Dead favorites among churchgoers. Still, expect a deluge of tightly budgeted religious films in the coming years.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Turtles last attacked the big screen in 2007 with the disappointing TMNT. The computer-generated action film made just $54 million in domestic box office, scraping to a worldwide total of approximately $96 million on a production budget of $34 million. The Michael Bay-produced remake is set to hit American theaters on Aug. 8, and was made on a budget of $130 million.
While a nostalgia-tinged culture may theoretically be ready for more half-shell action, and the reboot should cruise past its predecessor's meager box office performance, look for Nickelodeon's turtle retread to underperform. Particularly perplexing is the studio's decision to cast Megan Fox in the lead. The actress hasn't had a hit role since 2009's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, making her a cheap hire, but not the type of presence that should be attached to reenergize the cinematic and merchandizing potentials inherent to the property.
Set to open Dec. 19 -- the same weekend as Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb from Twenty-First Century Fox -- Sony's (NYSE:SNE) Annie will be going up against big competition. Starring young Oscar-winner Quvenzhané Wallis as the titular protagonist and featuring a soundtrack by Jay-Z, the film should hold its own and could become one of the year's breakout hits. Relative to budget and expectations, I anticipate it becoming one of the year's biggest success stories. The diverse family film should also put a dent in Secret of the Tomb's domestic haul.
With Amazing Spider-Man 2 underperforming, Annie stands as one of Sony's few remaining shots at a breakout hit in the calendar year. Musical tie-ins should work to promote the film and create another revenue stream for the struggling company.
Return to greatness ... or the drawing board
Of the listed reboots, Godzilla and Annie look best primed for success. Warner Bros. is likely to get at least one sequel out of its rebooted monster property, more if the studio can deliver on quality. Whether Annie becomes an ongoing property remains a little less certain, but the film has the right ingredients to become a holiday hit and create the potential for an ongoing musical franchise. With Warner and Sony lagging behind Disney on the superhero front, reboot projects are key in their respective quests to keep pace.
Keith Noonan has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.