I’m going to level with you for a minute – I’m a nerd. Just recently, I went to the midnight premiere of Avengers: Infinity War, and let me tell you that I had chills the entire time. I’m telling you – the Marvel Cinematic Universe has mastered the art of a film franchise. I eagerly anticipate every new release and am blessed with at least two to three new films each year. But nerd praise aside, I recently found myself thinking, what does it actually mean to be a movie franchise? When you look beyond the world of business franchising, you hear the word franchise in connection with a variety of industries relating to films, music, sports, and more. Today we’re going to take a break from the seriousness of business franchising and dive deeper into the inception of the word “franchise” and how it has evolved over time.
According to dictionary.com, the word “franchise” has several definitions, the earliest of which dates back to the 13th century stemming from the United Kingdom. This initial meaning was used in conjunction with privilege and liberties, specifically tying to the right to vote or representation. The meaning of the business sense of the word, one where a manufacturer gives rights to distributors to represent their goods in a specific territory did not come about until the twentieth century, however.
An easy way to divide the modern franchise types as we know them are business franchises and media franchises. The model for business franchising is that in which a parent company (the franchisor) sells the rights to another individual (the franchisee) to operate one or more locations of their franchised business. To my surprise, I found that the model for media franchises is not so different.
Take my superhero example from earlier. The MCU movies all fall under the umbrella of one media franchise. But they’re not just producing movies; there are various media platforms involved that want a piece of the profit. You’ve got merchandise, video games, printed materials, etc., all of which have been produced through third party companies who obtain the rights through license agreements and similar documentation to use the brand-specific material for profit. In this case, we don’t just have Marvel Studios, LLC (which we know is a derivative of Disney) reaping the rewards, but a bunch of different companies who are able to collaborate to turn a profit for their own respective business.
So, while there are no franchisees involved in media franchising, you are still able to clearly identify a parent company extending the rights to external entities for the profit of all. Now, the next time you hear somebody mention MCU as a film franchise, you’ll know to swiftly check your dreams of being a superhero-themed franchisee at the door and thank the Law Office of Josh F. Brown for your understanding of the different types of franchising this world has to offer.