I remember seeing Jurassic Park when I was a teenager and being so excited (and scared) to see such lifelike dinosaurs on the silver screen. After two hours of watching them interact with one another and with humans, I really did believe them to be real animals instead of computer-generated models. It was an experience I’ll never forget. Now, some 20 years later, a reboot of the Jurassic Park franchise has once again taken movie-going audiences by storm. Jurassic World boasts more of our favorite species of dinosaurs and a new set of characters to love packaged inside a man-verses-nature plot that’s a bit of a spicy, new twist on the old recipe.
The fact that Jurassic World is in theaters now excites me as a writer because it follows a hypothesis about entertainment franchise trends that I’ve had for a while now. My hypothesis is namely that sci-fi movie franchises tend to run in roughly 13 and 23-year cycles. And as a writer, 13 and 23-year cycles make my life a very happy one. Before I explain why, let’s follow my logic on trend timing for a minute. Jurassic World which released in 2015 is a reboot of Jurassic Park which was released in 1993. This dinosaur-ridden pair occurred 22 years apart, but Jurassic World and Jurassic Park III (2001) came just 14 years apart. Jurassic World is a sci-fi action movie that comes just months before another iconic sci-fi action movie is set to hit theaters: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
Episode VII comes 10 years after Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) and 15 years after Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999). If we back up a bit further with the Star Wars franchise, we see the trend again. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope wowed audiences in 1977, which was 22 years before The Phantom Menace, but Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983) occurred only 16 years before The Phantom Menace.
Going even further with my theory, let’s look at Lord of the Rings. In 1978, one really bad attempt to bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of Middle-Earth to life occurred in The Lord of the Rings movie. Then in the early 2000s, we see Middle-Earth finally portrayed as it should be in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Then audiences were transported back to Middle-Earth in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013), and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014). This trend sees a reboot of the original 1978 film some 23 years later with a related franchise beginning nine years after the first franchise reached its glorious conclusion.
Finally we have the Batman franchise. The original Batman movie came out in 1943 with Batman: The Movie following 23 years later in 1966. Twenty-three years after this came the franchise of the early 1990s that I grew up with: Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), and Batman & Robin (1997). By the time Batman & Robin hit the theaters, the franchise had gone from dark and moody to just plain campy. If ever there needed to be a decent reboot, this franchise was it. Sixteen years after Batman and eight years after Batman & Robin, Batman Begins thundered into theaters with an image makeover so complete that the Bat Mobil was a black tank instead of a car. Following Batman Begins (2005), we saw The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012)—a strong trilogy that excited new fans and old.
So to recap, we see a trend of 22 years and 14 years, 10 years and 15 years, 22 years and 16 years, 23 years and nine years, 23 years, 23 years, 16 years, and eight years between movies and franchises with reboots of box-office hits coming faster than failures. Averaged out we get 13 years between more successful franchise reboots and 23 between less successful franchises.
So why do I care so much about all of this movie trend trivia? I care because these trends offer a massive ray of hope for writers like me. You see, movie genre trends often follow book genre trends. Generally speaking, whatever general types of successful movies are popular now are often the same types of books that were immensely popular about six years ago. Case in point, the movies World War Z and Zombieland both came out in 2013 just six years after the book World War Z hit store shelves. The movies found audiences just as the resurgent trend of zombie stories hit its high point. Now in 2015, we see this zombie-loving trend tapering off.
This becomes very important for genre fiction writers because we can use movie franchise success to help us understand to overall genre trends. Case in point, the last major pirate movie series began with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in 2003 and will likely end with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in 2017. That is a 14-year cycle. Based on that information, I can probably assume that my own pirate-based book Thorn & Thistle has a good chance of selling well this year because we’re still in the middle of a pirate-loving trend. However, I probably shouldn’t stretch the series too long or it might outlive the hype.
I could also expect that launching a major vampire teen book series right now might be a bad idea because we’re still on the downward slope of that trend thanks to the Twilight movie series finishing just three years ago. The first book that inspired the vampire teen craze just hit its ten year anniversary. If I’m smelling the winds right, I think we’ll need another six to eight years before teen vampire books can gain momentum in popular culture again. If this is correct, then we’ll probably see another hot vampire teen movie hit theaters around 2026. Of course there are plenty of other factors to consider in my trend theory, which is why nothing is ever fool-proof. But, even if my theory is way wrong in its timing, knowing that genre trends do repeat with regularity gives me an advantage as a writer.
As an author in the digital age, repeating trends give me a chance that each book I write can have something more than a simple first-run shelf life. Because e-books and Print-on-Demand books don’t go out of print the way regular hardbacks and mass market paperbacks do, repeating genre trends mean that each book might get a second or third shot at glory in the hands of readers. It means that I might not have to be the world’s most formidable marketing genius to make a living at this crazy passion of mine. As long as my body of work is timeless in its appeal and varied in its subgenre material, I have an opportunity to impact multiple generations of people with my writing. That possibility is something to celebrate no matter when a book is published or when its same genre film is produced.
Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!
P.S. – Don’t forget, Skinshifter, The Dryad’s Sacrifice, and Thorn and Thistle will release on Amazon on September 25th, and on Kobo, Smashwords, Apple, and Barnes & Noble on December 24th. Pre-order purchasing is now available for all three in all places. You can read other excerpts for Skinshifter HERE, The Dryad’s Sacrifice HERE, and Thorn and Thistle HERE.
Also, don’t miss the official Skinshifter Blog Tour starting on September 28! I’ll be stopping by several websites and giving away some awesome prizes to readers! Watch my blog and the news page for more details. Thanks!
The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!