The Franchise Economy: Commercial Longevity and Poetic Utility in Contemporary Hollywood

Presentation at the 2018 Screen Studies Association of Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand (SSAAANZ) conference, hosted by the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University, Caulfield. 

21–23 November, 2018

The 2018 SSAAANZ conference was hosted by the School of Media, Film & Journalism (MFJ) at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. The conference theme “The Uses of Cinema: Film, Television, Screen” invited research that reflected on the usefulness of cinema.

I was fortunate and grateful to be awarded a postgraduate bursary by SSAAANZ to support attendance at this conference. 

My paper presented work from my PhD research on the poetics of franchise cinema, whilst engaging with the conference theme via the concept of poetic utility.

The Franchise Economy: Commercial Longevity and Poetic Utility in Contemporary Hollywood

Abstract

This paper examines how the franchise mode of production negotiates a complex interrelationship between creative development and commercial utility. This dynamic, I define, constitutes the two most fundamental attributes of entertainment franchising: industrial conditions, such a intellectual property ownership and licensing relations, and formal creative strategies that facilitate narrative extension, like serialisation, and transmedia storytelling. Therefore, in this understanding, industrial priorities and creative development work in unique dialogue to achieve the maximum longevity of franchise properties.

The relationship between industrial structures and creativity in franchise production has already attracted notable scholarly attention from disciplines like media communications and cultural studies, which consider the cultural hegemony and hierarchal organisation of franchise production and consumption. This paper acknowledges these critical perspectives as a point of departure, but contributes a formalist perspective on this relationship that considers the poetic utility of storytelling within franchise development. This notion of “poetic utility” conceptualises how the innovation and significance of creativity in franchise production develops in the active service of commercial longevity. In particular, this paper will focus on the poetic utility of serialisation, transmedia storytelling, and rebooting within the context of the franchise mode of production.

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