Hollywood's new formula is simple - but it's working

Fewer risks and less creativity are delivering more money than ever before...

Hollywood's new formula is simple - but it's working

Matt Alexander PA Wire/PA Images

2016 will go down as a landmark year in the history of Disney - Star Wars: Rogue One has helped it become the first studio to gross more than $7bn (€6.7bn) from box office sales in a single year.

Across the board this year is on-course to set a new record for cinema takings.

Its success reflects broader trends on the silver screen - it's leaned on family films, superheroes, and legacy reboots to get bums on seats.

By the time the year ends the success of the Star Wars prequel and its new hit animation Moana could push its income from cinema sales closer to $8bn.

The studio has already passed rival Universal's $6.9bn record ticket sales recorded in 2016.

The US firm has released four of the year's top-grossing films, Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, Zootopia, and Doctor Strange were all massive financial successes.

Bob Iger, Walt Disney chief executive devised a strategy to hover up existing successful studios and franchises.

It has spent over $15bn taking control of animation-studio Pixar, buying Star Wars, and the rights to the whole Marvel Universe of comic book heroes.

This strategy is paying off - Star Wars: The Force Awakens is highest grossing film at US box offices, and Rogue One is set to take in more than $1bn.

The company is also releasing less and less films, it created 31 films in 2005 and only 13 in 2016. This is a trend echoed by its rivals.

While this new formula is working for the studio it has contributed to an on-goign trend of studios relying on existing properties to make hits - rather than working from original ideas.

2016's most popular films reflect this trend - only The Secret Life of Pets and Zootopia are based on original stories:

  • Captain America: Civil War - $1.15bn (Disney)

  • Finding Dory - $1.03bn (Disney)

  • Zootopia - $1.02bn (Disney)

  • The Jungle Book - $966m (Disney)

  • The Secret Life of Pets - $875m (Universal)

  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - $873m (Warner Bros)

  • Deadpool - $782m (Fox)

  • Suicide Squad- $745m (Warner Bros)

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them - $718m (Warner Bros)

  • Doctor Strange - $653m (Disney)

This trend is set to continue in 2017. Disney's hopes are pinned to squeals and reboots again with Guardians of the Galaxy 2Thor: Ragnarok, a new Pirates of the Caribbean film, and Star Wars Episode VIII leading the charge.

So far, Star Wars has been the gift that has kept on giving for the company - it is currently building Star Wars Land - a new theme park in the US and it would be hard to bet against Episode VIII being 2017's top-earner.

Pixar is also set to unleash the third installment in the Cars franchise. 

It's not just Disney who are in on the trick - Universal's slate is led by The Fate of the Furious, Despicable Me 3 and a second Fifty Shades title (all squeals).

Meanwhile, Warner is busy preparing Wonder Woman, The LEGO Batman Movie, and Justice League - meaning that Hollywood in 2017 will probably look very similar to Hollywood in 2016.