I spent the breakfast end of Wednesday morning talking up the magnificently reborn Radio Times website, by way of an ISDN line, a headset mic, an airless room at the otherwise democratically open-plan RT offices, and a back-to-back itinerary of splendid local BBC radio stations.
I’m always up for a chat with “the regions”. I waxed self-promotional to Gloucestershire, Northampton (my home town), Hereford and Worcester, Three Counties (that’s Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire in one hit), Bristol, Cumbria, Shropshire, Truro and Humberside, and the hours flew by. The “hook” for this latest round of ambassadorial verbiage was the exclusive poll conducted herein to find out your favourite film franchise.
You can check out the top ten, plus 57 other contenders, in order of merit, elsewhere, but the thrust of our findings, based on the input of over 4,000 users, was that Harry Potter is now officially more beloved than the Star Wars saga. In fact, there was only one per cent of the vote in it, but there can only be one winner in a poll.
It’s not hard to see why the boy wizard has overtaken young Skywalker in the public’s affections. Potter is at the front of our minds, as The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is still in circulation – and has made so much money it now sits at number three in the all-time worldwide box office charts, behind only Avatar and Titanic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, franchises dominate the box office chart, with various instalments from Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Toy Story, Ice Age and Transformers vying for position.
And why wouldn’t they? Modern blockbuster franchises – and the studios don’t really bother with sequels or threequels or prequels to films that don’t bust blocks – are pretty much machine-tooled for success. When untold millions are pumped into them, these big, noisy, CGI-filled entertainments cannot fail. And a studio’s accounts department – where, of course, all the big decisions are made – likes only one thing more than a massive hit, and that’s a massive hit that spawns two or three further massive hits.
From the franchises you voted into your top ten, it was nice for me to see The Godfather in at number five, as it’s a finite saga. Director Francis Coppola has said that he regards it as a duology, with The Godfather Part III as an epilogue. Nonetheless, it was hugely successful, both commercially and critically, and has brand recognition aplenty, decades after the event. (The Guardian parodied its poster image only this week.) The Godfather proves that artistic integrity is not necessarily antagonistic to financial imperative.
Toy Story, too, is a finite franchise. Toy Story 3 is, for many (including me), the best of the trilogy. Certainly the most emotional. We can only hope Pixar don’t allow their accountants to talk them into a fourth. No! It’s finished! Leave it be! (Bourne, which came in at number eight in your chart, is supposed to be finished, too. But The Bourne Legacy – without Matt Damon, without Paul Greengrass, without Bourne – is due for next year. Might it actually dent the brand? We shall see.)
I was counting on you to honour the Carry On series, too, and you did. (More popular than Indiana Jones!) I wonder if these 29 films will still be as fondly remembered in, say, 50 years’ time. It’s entirely feasible that they are not being passed down from generation to generation. Modern teenagers would surely have little time for their quaint innuendo, wrinkled leading men and cheap production values. A shame, but true.
Have a look at the list. If it’s really popular, we might do a sequel.