Comcast Corporation (CMCSA), The Walt Disney Company (DIS): How Much Do Movie Franchises Matter? Ask Vin Diesel

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 Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA)‘s 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) 69% $160 million $787.9 million
Fast Five (2011) 77% $125 million $626.1 million
Saving Private Ryan (1998) 92% $70 million $481.8 million
Fast and Furious (2009) 27% $85 million $363.2 million
XXX (2002) 48% $70 million $277.4 million
The Fast and the Furious (2001) 53% $38 million $207.3 million
The Pacifier (2005) 20% $56 million $198.6 million
The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) 29% $105 million $115.7 million
Babylon A.D. (2008)  6% $70 million $72.1 million
Pitch Black (2000)  57% $23 million $53.2 million
A Man Apart (2003)  11% $36 million $44.4 million
Riddick (2013)  58% $38 million $33.9 million so far
Boiler Room (2000)  67% $26 million $28.8 million
Knockaround Guys (2002)  20% $15 million $14.1 million
Find Me Guilty (2006)  61% $13 million $2.6 million
TOTALS  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, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) 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.

The article How Much Do Movie Franchises Matter? Ask Vin Diesel originally appeared on and is written by Tim Beyers.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Walt Disney at the time of publication. Check out Tim’s Web home and portfolio holdings, or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Walt Disney. 

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