Marvel’s carefully curated formula determines its franchise popularity


Camila Oliva '24

The popular Marvel franchise allures its audience with its carefully curated formula.

As Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) begins with the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania February 17, film franchises such as the MCU continue to dominate the film industry, specifically in movie theaters.  While they are the backbone of the success of movie theater box offices, these franchises overshadow many smaller independent films, according to movieweb.comA franchise’s popularity depends on the viewers’ comfort in watching the same predictable structure unfold.  However, this can also cause the audience to lose interest in the franchise as there is not enough change, according to Sacred Heart Greenwich junior Jane Murphy, Filmmaking and Media Studies student, explains the popularity and longevity of the MCU franchise. 

Marvel fans anticipate the release of the MCU’s latest release, Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania.  Courtesy of

Blockbuster franchises like James Bond and Harry Potter remain popular because their audiences enjoy the consistency they provide.  From its initial release in 1962 to its most recent release in 2021, James Bond films modernized over time, yet they still adhere to their formula of a quick-witted protagonist against a villain.  Following the same storyline structure promises success to the producers, but, often, change in large franchises is also essential to maintain movie watchers engaged.  Film producers minimize the risk of box office bombing, which is when a film fails to meet its budget at the box office, by not releasing new and original content to its audience, according to

Introducing change to popular franchises is risky because most of their audience returns to watch their films expecting to see something similar to their previous films.  This can quickly fail if a production company attempts to change too much of the plot, and it becomes unsatisfactory for the viewer.  The Star Wars franchise has fallen into this trap as sequels have become increasingly unsuccessful, according to  The first ever Star Wars film, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, grossed more than $775,000,000, whereas Solo: A Star Wars Story, their last film, only grossed $392,924,807 worldwide, according to

The MCU is the biggest franchise in the film industry because of the balance it maintains between the comfort of a stable storyline and the newer changes it incorporates into every one of its latest films.  Its carefully curated formula includes an action-packed movie with original character-focused storylines to keep the audience engaged, according to  This formula keeps audiences engrossed as each film builds into a large team-based storyline where the viewers’ favorite characters unite into one production.  Jane explained why Marvel’s specific and intriguing plot formula sets it apart from other franchises. 

“A franchise such as the MCU has been accumulating fans for over a decade and has become so infamous that anyone can recognize its characters,” Jane said.  “They’ve done so by creating a strong foundation like Iron Man and Captain America.  Over time, they begin to build the universe while keeping the characters that the viewers know so that they are always drawn back to these films.  Even without these original characters, the Marvel logo automatically separates a movie from its competitors.”

While both production companies released the films in December 2021, Spider-Man: No Way Home makes millions more than Licorice Pizza.  Camila Oliva ’24

While franchises continue to make billions of dollars at the box office, smaller independent films are left in the shadows.  Viewers are drawn to blockbusters because they are predictable, and the audience knows they are going to enjoy what they will watch.  On the other hand, production companies consider independent films to be riskier and are not shown as long in theaters.  In 2021, Spider-Man: No Way Home grossed over one billion dollars, whereas the independent film Licorice Pizza only grossed 11 million, according to movieweb.comJane discussed how Marvel’s profit-driven films tower above other deserving independent films. 

“I find smaller feature films tend to be more realistic not just in the sense that they aren’t these superhero movies, but because they have set plot lines and an end goal,” Jane said.  “On the contrary, Marvel will continue to make movies until nobody wants to watch them anymore (which will probably never happen).  Marvel will keep making movies because they are still making money and gaining more fans.  It’s a shame to see a company like Marvel start to prioritize quantity over quality.  They are mass producing these movies without a lot of thought and care.  And because they are such a big corporation, they can get away with these sorts of things.  But it’s unfortunate to see the MCU lose sight of why films are made.  Yes, films can make an incredible amount of money, but the reason they are made is to teach and to enlighten.”

Featured Image by Camila Oliva ’24