Aug 12, 2014

Guest Post - Michael G. Munz - Zeus is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure

Today, author Michael G. Munz is stopping by on his book tour..., without further ado, heeeeeeeeere's Michael!!

Hi everyone! It's great to be here on 1000 Trillion Suns! In honor of the release of my new comedic fantasy novel Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure, the powers-that-be have tasked me with giving you a list of five things you absolutely cannot leave home without when embarking on an adventure (monstrously inconvenient or otherwise). And so, in no particular order, because that's the kind of indecisive guy I am…

Some Manner of Companion-beast
What kind? It really depends on your particular needs. A dog, a dragon, a robot, a gardener, etc. Each has its uses. They can get you out of a jam (locked cell, socially awkward situation, Death Star trash compactor), they can carry your stuff, and the right ones can even go berserk at a comically appropriate time and kick three times as much ass as you ever could. Just make sure you treat 'em well.

Being a card-carrying geek (or I would be, if I could find where I'm supposed to get those cards), I've played my share of Dungeons & Dragons. If there's one thing D&D has taught me, it's this. In my groups, everyone always carried, especially after one DM showed us how much of a stickler he was regarding MUCH rope we had when we were needing to do things with it. (It's the only instance I know of a "rope lawyer.")
For extra utility, get a rope that can turn invisible! You can use it to trip pursuers or simply tie up any prisoners without anyone noticing they're bound!

A Seemingly Worthless Item™
It is guaranteed that a seemingly worthless item will turn out to be the precise thing for the most dangerous situation you will ever get into. Just—and I cannot emphasize this enough*—do NOT forget to show someone that you have it when you start so as to properly establish its existence. Also, if someone asks you WHY you're carrying it, be evasive. You'll cultivate more mystery that way: "Why are you carrying that Elvis Presley bobblehead?" "Why NOT carry an Elvis Presley bobblehead?"

*Seriously, I CAN'T emphasize it enough; this is a guest blog post and I have no control over font.

A Nice Set of Clothes
You never know when you'll have to clean up and have dinner with the king, president, or PTA-head whose kingdom/palace/high school gym you've accidentally stumbled into. Indiana Jones knew it. Thalia the Muse of Comedy & Science Fiction knows it. Now you know it, too.

Bonus points if they're made of some stretchy, fireproof material that repels stains. Because you never know.

A Laser Pointer
Use this to make people think you've got snipers covering you, shine a light to distant stars in order to call for help (please allow 4.367 to 2 million years for delivery), and keep yourself entertained (lasers are just neat). You can kill two birds with one stone here if you make this your Seemingly Worthless Item™, too!

Special bonus Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure uses: Laser pointers can also be used to deal with swarms of razorwings, the playfully feral, poisonous, bat-winged kittens that plague the American southwest.


A trusty weapon – the more unique, the better: Lightsabers are good, but hard to come by. A big ol' magical hammer that returns when you throw it is great, but usually requires a background check. Don't use a whip – it's been done, and you'll just hurt yourself. My recommendation? Some sort of bazooka that fires angry badgers.

A towel: Anyone who's ever read Douglas Adams knows this one. (Really, it's already such a given that you should bring along a towel that I didn't even think I had to mention it.) He said it far better than I, so I'll just quote him here:

"A towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have 'lost.' What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with."

So that's my list. Fail to heed it at your own peril, and be sure to check out Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure, which features Greek gods, muses, erinyes, and maybe even a hydra in Lake Michigan.


Title: Zeus is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure
Author: Michael G. Munz
Genre: Contemporary Mythological Fantasy
Release date: July 21st, 2014
Publisher: Booktrope Publishing
Length: 446 pages (paperback)


The gods are back. Did you myth them?

You probably saw the press conference. Nine months ago, Zeus's murder catapulted the Greek gods back into our world. Now they revel in their new temples, casinos, and media empires—well, all except Apollo. A compulsive overachiever with a bursting portfolio of godly duties, the amount of email alone that he receives from rapacious mortals turns each of his days into a living hell.
Yet there may be hope, if only he can return Zeus to life! With the aid of Thalia, the muse of comedy and science fiction, Apollo will risk his very godhood to help sarcastic TV producer Tracy Wallace and a gamer-geek named Leif—two mortals who hold the key to Zeus's resurrection. (Well, probably. Prophecies are tricky buggers.)
Soon an overflowing inbox will be the least of Apollo’s troubles. Whoever murdered Zeus will certainly kill again to prevent his return, and avoiding them would be far easier if Apollo could possibly figure out who they are.
Even worse, the muse is starting to get cranky.
Discover a world where reality TV heroes slay actual monsters and the gods have their own Twitter feeds: Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure!

Find Zeus is Dead on:

Or you could try to score a free copy here


An award-winning writer of speculative fiction, Michael G. Munz was born in Pennsylvania but moved to Washington State in 1977 at the age of three. Unable to escape the state’s gravity, he has spent most of his life there and studied writing at the University of Washington.
Michael developed his creative bug in college, writing and filming four exceedingly amateur films before setting his sights on becoming a novelist. Driving this goal is the desire to tell entertaining stories that give to others the same pleasure as other writers have given to him. He enjoys writing tales that combine the modern world with the futuristic or fantastic.
Michael has traveled to three continents and has an interest in Celtic and Classical mythology. He also possesses what most “normal” people would likely deem far too much familiarity with a wide range of geek culture, though Michael prefers the term geek-bard: a jack of all geek-trades, but master of none—except possibly Farscape and Twin Peaks.
Michael dwells in Seattle where he continues his quest to write the most entertaining novel known to humankind and find a really fantastic clam linguine.
Find out more about him at While there, it wouldn't hurt to get a FREE copy of Mythed Connections, the spiritual prequel to Zeus is Dead.

Contact Michael on 

ZEUS IS DEAD: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure
By Michael G. Munz
Paperback price: $20.95
eBook price: $4.99
Paperback: 446 pages
Publisher: Booktrope Editions
Publication date: July 21, 2014
Print ISBN: 978-1-62015-426-7
Epub ISBN: 978-1-62015-416-8
• Available on in Kindle and paperback versions
• Available on in Nook and paperback versions
• Title is available internationally – please contact us directly if you do not see it on your preferred book purchase website
• Discounts or customized editions may be available for educational and other groups based on bulk purchase
• For further information please contact


Zeus Is Dead is full of laugh-out-loud moments, lashings of sly wit, moan-worthy puns, and a complex, fastpaced storyline. There aren’t very many humorous fantasy murder mysteries out there, especially not as intricately constructed as this one. Michael G. Munz takes a ’What if,’ and runs with it like a toddler with Mom’s smart phone. He evokes a pantheon of characters including, well, the actual Pantheon, plus modern characters who will ring the bell of familiarity without being trite or clichéd. Munz knows his craft as well as his Greek mythology, pop culture, and dysfunctional family dynamics. The guffaw-worthy throwaway bits (stay tuned for the battle sundae) will remind you of Douglas Adams. A very enjoyable read.”
—Jody Lynn Nye, author of View from the Imperium and co-author
of the Myth Adventures of Aahz and Skeeve

“Not since the people of Atlantis predicted ‘low humidity’ has there been such an original twist in Greek Mythology. This book is also far more amusing.”
—Brian Rathbone, creator of the bestselling Godsland Fantasy Series

Zeus Is Dead is a book about the return of old gods, but Cthulhu is not in evidence, and it did not drive me to the very edge of madness. Instead it is a hilarious, satirical, page-turning romp through a world beset by plagues of monsters, egotistical gods, and reality television shows. I highly recommend this book to those who value both their sanity and a hearty guffaw. ”
—Seamus Cooper, author of The Mall of Cthulhu

“Delivering us from a sea of endlessly morose and self-important supernatural fiction, Zeus Is Dead understands that Greek mythology is more than a little bit insane and—rather than ignore the unseemly aspects—embraces them with the appropriate level of snark and style. Munz’s tale echoes the bureaucratic insanity of Douglas Adam’s creations, the banter of Grant and Naylor’s Red Dwarf, and the cynicism of Ben Croshaw in order to bring us a clever, hilarious tale of adventure and grudging heroism.

I guess what I’m saying is that unless you really like your supernatural fiction all mopey and dull, you’ll find
something to love here.”
—Jonathan Charles Bruce, author of Project Northwoods

“A hilarious mythological tale of god-like proportions. Munz has crafted a tale of bizarro comic fantasy that sits comfortably among the ilk of Gaiman and Pratchett.”
—Andrew Buckley, author of Death, the Devil, and the Goldfish

Thanks for stopping by, Michael. Good luck on the rest of your tour!


Aug 7, 2014

Greetings, Earthlings #1

Greetings, Earthlings...

So, this week I watched a handful of movies and thought I'd share some thoughts with you. If you follow me on TWITTER, you probably already know that I enjoy all kinds of stuff (and things) with movies being up there amongst my favorites. If you don't follow me on Twitter...why not?? You're missing the brilliant comedic styling of @Spartagus:
*instals calories* *updates mood* Thank for installing Spartan 3.0 *sigh of relief*


Watching #Noah ...and Noah has just been punched in the head by a rock's that.

The first tweet is me being...well, me. And the second tweet refers to the movie I watched last night...and I'll get to that in next week's post.

For now though, let's start with Guardians of the Galaxy...
So, you take Marvel's box of toys and Disney's marketing machine and what you end up with is a colossal $95M opening weekend for a movie with a talking Raccoon and a sentient tree who can only say "I am Groot." 

And I think it deserves all of its success.

This movie is a LOT of fun. Sure, it suffers from the usual problems of summer movie bloat, featuring a third act that has everything but the kitchen sink thrown in, but all the Guardians are great, the humor irreverent and the effects top notch. A sequel is due in 2017, by which time I fully expect Marvel to be our evil overlords. The upside being there will probably be a really cool President/Emperor...probably Robert Downey Jr.


After the superhero fun of GOTG, I decided to try out Liam Neeson's new throat-punching extravaganza, Non-Stop.

Basically, it's Speed on an airplane, with Liam Neeson's air marshal up against a bad guy (or girl...let's keep some mystery here) who will kill passengers if he (or she) is not paid $150 million.

Liam has managed to get his second wind as a movie action star, but attempts to replicate the bare bones, muscular, voicebox wrecking, euro face-smashing success of Taken invariably fall short. Non-stop isn't bad, but it's hamstrung with an overly elaborate bad guy plot and some harebrained character decisions that left me thinking "really???"

This one is for a Saturday night when you've worn out your copy of Taken. Alternatively, you could watch the vastly superior "bad guys on a plane" movie Executive Decision with Kurt Russell and Halle Berry if only to watch ***SPOILER ALERT*** Steven Seagal get sucked out of an airplane halfway through the movie. Little has made me happier at the movies than that moment. lol.


Next, I watched 12 Years a Slave, further proof, if any was needed, that mankind has serious issues. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a free black man from New York who is abducted and sold into slavery in the South. It's an incredible story, and one filled with moments of sheer frustration and anger at the level of hatred, violence, indifference, greed and cruelty shown by the bulk of the white characters. Despite Michael Fassbender's character appearing to be borderline bat-shit insane, the bulk of the white people in the movie seem to be in full control of their faculties, so the violence perpetrated against Ejiofor's character Solomon, and the other slaves, seems even more brutal. The film is based on a true story which makes it all the more...powerful.

The cast is filled out with several well known actors in smaller roles, including Brad Pitt, but the accolades belong to Ejiofor as Solomon, newcomer Lupita Nyong'o as Patsey and Fassbender as Epps. The director, Steve McQueen and his director of photography deserve some accolades too for the look of the movie. Also, for the unflinching eye they cast on scenes as they play out. One scene, where Solomon has to balance on his tip-toes with a noose around his neck for hours, plays out in relative silence for much longer than other directors would allow. You aren't allowed to just look away, you are forced to watch and to shake your head and wonder why those who see him hanging there don't cut him down. Powerful scene.

This is not light viewing, but well worth a watch.

So, there ya go. That was this week's eclectic selection. I'll be back next week with some more, including Noah...a new take on an old story. Until then, take it easy.

Spartan out.

Jul 28, 2014

Cover Reveal - The Long Way Home by Regina West

My good friend, and editor, Regina West has a new romance novel - "The Long Way Home" - coming out in 3 days time (July 31st).

Regina West

The Long Way Home is Regina's debut as a romance writer and, to whet your appetite, I've been allowed to give you a sneak peek of the cover!

Drum roll...

Twilah Dunn has it all—an exciting life in Los Angeles and a thriving ad agency she owns with her fiancé. Then she learns that her estranged father has died and her business partner is sleeping with her best friend. In one day, her perfect life unravels and the city she calls home is now anything but.

She returns to her hometown in North Carolina determined to sell her father's horse farm in order to buy back her business from her cheating fiancé. But when she sees the farm’s dilapidated state, she can’t bear the thought of selling it that way. Against all reason, she puts her fast-paced, metropolitan life on hold and hires local cowboy Aidan Perry to help restore the farm to its former glory. She’s heard the rumors of his dark past, and she’s wary of mixing business with pleasure—again. But soon she can’t keep her mind, or her hands, off of him.

Can Twilah push through her fear and love Aidan? Will his past prove too dangerous? Has she really left LA behind or will it continue to haunt her?

For some, the path is straight and narrow, but others take The Long Way Home.


Congratulations, Gina. Best of luck on the 31st...and beyond. I hope to see your name on the bestseller lists soon.

For more information on Regina, or her new novel, you can head over to her 


Alternatively, you can catch up with her in person on TWITTER or on FACEBOOK

And you can read MY review of Regina's book on GOODREADS

Jul 7, 2014

Cover Reveal: Borrowed Time by Chad A. Clark

Today, I'm pleased to take part in the COVER REVEAL for indy author Chad A. Clark's new short story collection. Check out the cover, read the blurb, visit the website, buy the book, review the book, tell your friends...that's all I ask. :)

Borrowed Time is a collection of six tales bridging the chilling world of horror and the mind-bending realms of science-fiction. Join a young man searching for answers in the wake of a friend’s suicide, who uncovers an evil that proves some questions are best left unasked. Journey with a young artist along haunted back-country highways, hoping to make it home while re-discovering herself in the process. Travel to the distant future where one man breaks free from the safe isolation of his existence and risks everything so that he might learn what lies beyond the confines of his reality. Read these and more in the debut book from this new author.

Storytelling has always been one of Chad A. Clark’s passions. A Midwestern raised author, he specializes in horror and science fiction. Learn more about him at his website, You can also enjoy a new original work of fiction every week on his website,


Jun 11, 2014

Bright Lights #17 - Alex Kimmell - the Key to everything

After a 9 month hiatus, the Bright Lights author interviews are back. Once again, I'll have a wide range of authors stopping by to share their thoughts on writing and offer some insight into what it means to be a writer.

So, without further ado, the first head on the chopping block is...

Alex Kimmell

Who is Alex Kimmell?

alex kimmell (the squirrel whisperer/twodoggarage/daddy not-so-much-bucks) is an accidental novelist, anti-rhyme-ologist, oxygen inhaler, carbon dioxide exhaler who often generates harmonious sounds with various instruments of different historical importance. his work has appeared on cool places around the 1’s and 0’s like Dumb White Husband, Black Lantern Press, Front Row Lit and The Wordcount Podcast. His novel “the Key to everything” and collection of short, horrific tales “A Chorus of Wolves” were released by Booktrope Publishing. come and join the neurosis at

For dessert, I urge you all to check out Alex's links below. Right now though, it's time for the main course... 

1. Alex, are writers born or made?

Writers are made. Each of us is born with an innate sense of creativity. All you need to do to figure that out is watch children play. The question is, is that creative spark nurtured in the individual or not? I wasn’t interested in being a writer growing up. But I was lucky enough to have parents and teachers who were very encouraging of my imagination. They directed me toward interesting books and studying the world around me. Much of my education was directed to music, so a lot of my creative energies were focused on that. When I started writing songs, I leaned on the history of poetry, literature and lyricists that inspired me. Maybe there are writers out there who picked up a crayon in pre-school and wrote down their first stories. Even so, you can bet they were supported and inspired by someone around them to help guide them finding their calling.

2. Aside from your own stuff, which ONE book do you wish you’d written? And why?

So many books can be named here. My instinctive response is to choose anything by Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman or Michael Marshall Smith. Since I can only pick one book, I’d have to say “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danelewski, That book entered my life shortly after it came out and has yet to stop expanding in my brain pan. No book has terrified me, intrigued me, confused me and inspired me as much as HoL. I’ve given copies to friends and they fall into one of two camps. Either they become obsessed with it like me, or they completely hate it and can’t be bothered to finish it. The book itself becomes a physical manifestation of the story. What you hold in your hands is in fact, a character in the story. It’s meta-fiction. It’s multi-layered storytelling at such a deeply creative level. So immensely complicated and yet the major themes of the story are so primal. No author before or since has inspired such awe in me. I read it at least once a year, and each time something new jumps out at me. I can’t imagine a time when there won’t be new discoveries waiting around the next page. There are websites dedicated to figuring out what everything means in it’s labyrinth. Each word a symbol, every character a archetype. All I know is when all the trappings are stripped away, it’s a beautiful story. I can honestly say that I wish I had written it.

3. Are writers just entertainers or do they have a deeper responsibility?

I don’t believe there is a responsibility to entertain. However, there certainly is quite a bit of motivation to do so. If you want the reader to dig through each and every syllable you’ve slaved so hard to craft, the story needs to bring some element of enjoyment. If readers aren’t enticed by what is on page, what motivation do they have to continue reading? If the first book is no fun, what point is there in opening the second? All art to a certain degree must entertain. If a painting doesn’t capture the eye, no one is going to look at it. If the music is un-listenable, who is going to want to hear it? Tastes obviously vary from person to person. As my father used to say, “That’s what makes a horse race.” I am not saying the writer needs to cater his work to an audience’s desires. We need to write what we ourselves feel the need to put down on the page. Nothing is going to please everyone. All we can do as writer’s is come as close to pleasing ourselves as possible. Hopefully having been successful at that, others will find some enjoyment in the work.

4. Writers nowadays have to be promoters, social butterflies and salespeople alongside the creative and somewhat solitary side that makes up writing. How do you balance it all?

Short answer: I don’t. Everything is so unbalanced! Though I don’t think it’s too different from how authors used to work before the internet. There have always been book signings, tours and promotional events. These days we have to do most of them from our computers. It’s a necessity to take more responsibility for these things if we want to develop a following and spread recognition of our books to readers. I’m on Twitter and Facebook a lot. More than I probably should be when it keeps me from actually writing. Every day I’m out there making friends, trying to get interviews and get my name out. Just like any other small business, I spend a quite a bit of my time hustling. My books were released by an independent publisher with a small marketing budget. They are great to me, but if we don’t work together as a team to spread the word, the word will not be spread. From the stories I hear, even if I were part of a major publishing company’s roster, I’d still be plugging away to get my books noticed by people. Unless you’re on the NYT Top 20 List, it’s going to be a struggle. Similar to having children, no one is going to take care of my babies the way that I will.

5. What would you tell your younger self before they took their first steps to becoming a writer?

Spend more time writing! Study grammar and learn the rules before you start breaking them. Be disciplined. Write more every day. Write write write! Read lots of books. Good books, bad books, horrible books, amazing books. Then write some more.

My thanks to Alex for stopping by and answering some questions. You can find Alex and his books by following these links:

Twitter: @alexkimmellauth

My Amazon Author Page:

tK2e on BN:

tK2e on iTunes:

ACoW on iTunes:

 ~ GSY

May 22, 2014


Every summer, the movie studios release what they call "tentpole" movies. Normally, these are big-budget, effects-driven franchise movies, designed to prop up the studios and make them their profits for the year. I call them programmed franchises because they're not acquired with one movie in mind. The philosophy from the start is to produce at least a trilogy.

So much money is invested in these movies that failure can cripple a studio.

Trivia Blast!! - New Line Cinema had to merge with its parent company Warner Bros after the (relative) failure of The Golden Compass: 

Budget: $180M 
Box Office: $70M

(The Golden Compass was intended to follow the trilogy of His Dark Materials books by Phillip Pullman)

Stephen Spielberg is sometimes credited with creating the first summer "Blockbuster" movie with JawsJaws was the first movie to be distributed with a "wide release," meaning that it opened all across the country on the same day, something that is par for the course nowadays. Consequently, it muscled out all the competition and held onto the number one spot for weeks. It was also the first movie to pass $100M in box office receipts. It finished with $470M.

Jaws spawned 3 sequels of ever-increasing awfulness, since the concept was not really designed as a franchise in the first place. Jaws remained the biggest movie of all time until a little picture called Star Wars was released two years later.

Star Wars


Star Wars, at least in George Lucas's mind, was always meant to be the first of several movies. In a salute to the old serials of the past, he even called it Episode IV: A New Hope. The movie studios were wary of the project until they saw a line of people wrapped around the outside of theaters waiting to see it. Lucas was also savvy enough to realize the potential in merchandising his creation. Seeing the colossal box office and the huge demand for action figures and posters, movie studios forever decided that the summer would be blockbuster movie time.

Trivia Blast!! - Star Wars made Harrison Ford into a huge box office star, but his relationship with George Lucas began four years earlier. Ford taught himself to be a carpenter to support his acting career, and, after building some cabinets in Lucas' home, he was cast in a supporting role in American Graffiti.

Billion Dollar Movies

Titanic was the first movie to break the billion-dollar barrier in worldwide box office. After that, only 3 of the next seventeen movies to pass the mark were NOT part of a franchise. All 3 have planned or rumored sequels, however, which would leave Titanic as the only non-franchise movie to pass $1 billion.

Movie studios, hunting for marketable franchises, looked to successful book series: Harry Potter (8 movies), The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hunger Games (2 so far), Twilight (5 movies), and The Hobbit (3 movies)…

...a new batch of fun and beautifully made animated movies: Toy Story (3 movies), Ice Age (4 movies) and Shrek (5 movies including Puss in Boots)…

...and rebooted older franchises: Star Wars (3 prequels with new sequels announced), Star Trek (2 new movies), Planet of the Apes (2 new movies) and James Bond (3 Daniel Craig movies).

Trivia Blast!! - Disney increased its punching power during the summer months by acquiring Pixar for $7.4 billion, Marvel for $4 billion and Lucasfilm for $4 billion. 

Birth of the Mega-Franchise

Comic books have long provided cinema with some notable heroes, like DC Comics's Superman and Batman. These two characters have appeared in thirteen movies (so far) since 1978, netting DC's parent company, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., somewhere in the region of $6 billion.

Marvel comics (DC's biggest rival) have many familiar faces too, but financial problems meant they were unable to produce their own movies without other studios’ assistance. In an attempt to cash in on their creations, Marvel sold the movie rights to many of their top tier superheroes to different studios. Sony secured arguably the biggest name in Spider-Man, while Fox snatched up The Fantastic Four and The X-Men (with Wolverine). (Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Elektra and The Punisher were also dealt away).

Marvel eventually got back on its feet and launched its own studio. Without their A-List heroes, it had to risk everything on a character called Iron Man. The result propelled Robert Downey, Jr., to the top of the A-List, and Marvel were now a force to be reckoned with.

Marvel had a plan from the start, and it all hinged on Iron Man making a profit. Two further franchises were launched (Thor and Captain America), interlocking the characters and working towards one big story. This culminated in The Avengers, which is part of a trilogy of movies: a megafranchise!

Trivia Blast!! - Nine movies make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe Megafranchise, so far. Making almost $6.5 billion in a short six-year span, it is now the second most successful franchise in movie history. Harry Potter holds onto the #1 spot ($7.7 billion).

DC Comics is now producing a Superman movie that is intended to be the stepping stone towards a Justice League movie.

The Future

As the comic-book well dries up, studios will return to literature and revisiting past glories to bring the summer slate together.

Sadly, these blockbuster movies eat up theater screens, so that means there is a smaller selection of films to choose from – more money tied up in fewer films. The pressure on the studios to generate consistent money-making hits will increase until, like everything else, the bubble will burst. As in other times, failure could end a movie studio and then the whole industry will have to reassess to move forward. I wonder what type of movies we'll get then?

Trivia Blast!! - Despite appearing in a slew of successful movies between them, Tom Hanks and Angelina Jolie have had their biggest box office successes as voice actors in animated movies (Toy Story and Kung Fu Panda).


May 17, 2014

Milking The Movie Cash Cow

In recent years, yearning for a bigger slice of the money pie, movie studios have poured more resources into fewer films.

Trivia Blast! - In 2012, 135 films made up 95% of the total Box Office in the United States.

So, despite a huge increase in accessibility for fans (more theaters, online vendors), fear of losing profit dictates the movie slate and opportunities are dwindling to get an original idea made into a movie.


Franchises are nothing new. When a studio hits on a money-making idea, they are not shy about green-lighting a sequel almost immediately.

Generally, there are two types of franchise: "programmed" and "opportunistic". A programmed franchise example would be Harry Potter - a successful line of books purchased with the intent to make the entire series. Of course, if the first of these movies tanks, or even if it struggles later in the series, the franchise can be quietly buried and forgotten. (see: John Carter or The Lone Ranger)

I will talk more about these in a later post. Here though, I'm going to talk more about the "opportunistic" franchise.

Cash Cow

Trivia Blast! - Movie theaters in the US draw more people than all the theme parks and major sports (NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA) COMBINED!

There is always a glint in a movie producer's eyes when they can lure a big (or upcoming) movie star into a movie specifically designed to their perceived strengths (see: Beverly Hills Cop). If the first one works, it will spawn as many sequels as can be milked from the idea. Often the sequels fail because they are too repetitive and stale. (see: Beverly Hills Cop 2 & 3)

The most extreme version of the opportunistic franchise is when a movie is assembled with familiar, but not A-List, stars in a movie that is expected to make a decent profit and the movie then goes on to blow away the box office. Now the movie studios have something unexpected and they need to cash in...immediately.

Unfortunately, fresh ideas are less important than quick turnaround and so you end up with movies like... 

The Hangover

Made for around $35M, The Hangover was a silly, outrageous comedy and a surprise hit around the world. It pulled in almost $470M in worldwide box office. A sequel was quickly announced and released two years later. Hangover 2 was basically a carbon copy of the first, but this time the studio spent more money making it. It raked in $586M so part 3 was inevitable. Hangover 3 had a budget of $103M and despite making over $360M around the world, it was clear the well was drying up.

The Hangover is considered a successful franchise ($1.4 billion in worldwide box office), but it only contains one movie that the IMDB users rate above a 7/10

So what...?

I'd like to be clear that I'm not against taking a good movie and creating a sequel IF there are more stories to tell. I will happily fork over my cash to watch them.

However, turning one small idea into a trilogy, or more (yes, I'm looking at you Friday the 13th), is taking money and opportunity away from a broader range of films. If the choice is to pour $100 million into 4 or 5 new ideas or to squeeze out another Hangover, the studio will pick the Hangover every time.

Trivia Blast! - 18 movies have passed the $1 billion mark in the worldwide box office. Only 4 of them are stand alone movies: Alice in Wonderland, Frozen, Titanic and Avatar. However, three sequels have been announced for Avatar and rumors continue to circulate that there will be a Frozen sequel.

Open Big

It's important to have a big first weekend too. To make that happen you have to advertise and the more you advertise the more chance there is for having the big opening. And it has to be the first week because the next big franchise will hit the week after...and so on.

So, originality takes a back seat to...profit. And while the studios would have us believe they're giving the audience what they demand, they're not. They're cashing in on the goodwill created by the first movie of the series and cynically exploiting it.

Trivia Blast! - Only 4 of the Billion Dollar movies make it into IMDB's top 100 best rated movies: Toy Story 3 (65th), The Dark Knight Rises (50th), Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (9th) & The Dark Knight (4th)!

How many of your favorite movies are sequels, reboots or part of a series?

Next time, I will discuss the programmed franchises and the creation of new Super-Franchises!

Trivia blast information taken from MPAA 2012 Theatrical Market Statistics Report & MPAA 2013 Theatrical Market Statistics Report & All Time Worldwide Box Office & IMDB Top 250 Movies