In the world of cinema, certainly blockbuster cinema, the long-running franchise is something that all the big studios dream about. These are the titles that have many sequels and spin-offs built into their DNA and, arguably, it was ‘Star Wars’ that began the whole trend. To get an idea of the value of the franchise phenomenon one only has to look at the $4.05 billion Disney paid for the rights to George Lucas’s baby back in 2014 – and they’re already in profit.
But one franchise that has always been a little under the radar is ‘Jumanji’. While its profile might be nowhere near that of ‘Star Wars’, over the course of four movies in the series so far, it has notched up box office sales of almost $2.1 billion from production costs of a relatively paltry $345 million – not a bad return on investment by anyone’s reckoning.
A franchise of two halves
It’s also been a slow burner with the original book on which the whole series has been based coming out back in 1981 and its follow-up, ‘Zathura’, arriving in 2002. Soon after publication of the first title, Columbia Pictures, a subsidiary of Sony, bought the film rights from author Chris van Allsburg, but it wasn’t until 1995 that it finally hit the big screen. They were quicker off the mark with ‘Zathura: A Space Story’ which came out in 2005, just three years after the book. Together, the two movies took $327 million, with a combined budget of $130 million. Impressive, but not quite enough to persuade the studio to commit to a third movie.
That is, until 2017 when the franchise was well and truly resurrected with the release of ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’. Made for a serious budget of $90 million, it netted returns of over ten times that amount and introduced a whole new cast. With big names like Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black onboard and an altogether more action-packed and dramatic storyline, it couldn’t fail.
The fact that it was 21 years after the original film was supposed to have taken place was neatly handled with the board game converted into a video game and the characters being transformed into their avatars.
The game becomes a game
There have also been accompanying video games throughout the franchise’s history starting with the Microsoft Windows-based ‘Jumanji: A Jungle Adventure Game Pack’ and with the very latest being 2019’s ‘Jumanji: The Video Game’. And it’s not just video games that have been produced – there’s a very successful slots game available on sites like Space Casino. Although it doesn’t feature any characters from the rebooted films, this uses the device of the original board game as a way to win cash bonuses and trigger extra features.
This conversion of a film franchise into a slots game is something that is becoming more and more common these days, so we can probably expect to see more ‘Jumanji’ versions in the future. As to the next movie, that’s also believed to be in its early stages with a possible 2021 release date.
So it looks like the Jumanji story still has plenty more chapters ahead of it.