Market Overview

Star Wars Killed Twilight, Harry Potter and Transformers 3 in What Category?

It seems that most consumers are stuck on a galaxy far, far away.

In the category of movie searches, you would think that the latest Twilight film, Breaking Dawn, would be a contender for the most-searched film of the year. And it was a contender – but, despite the mountain of hype, the cornucopia of ticket sales, and the (reportedly record-breaking) midnight screenings, Breaking Dawn did not break any records for online searching. It, according to a Experian Hitwise (via TechCrunch), ranked third.

Well, if it isn't Twilight, it must be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, right? After all, this was the second part of the final chapter in the Harry Potter franchise. It was an epic conclusion that drew massive crowds, sold out theaters, and inspired many to go back and re-watch (and re-read) the entire series.

But Harry Potter wasn't the biggest film either – not in terms of Web searching. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ranked fourth in that regard.

If it's not Twilight or Harry Potter, there is just one summer blockbuster left that could have taken the top spot: Transformers 3. This long-awaited sequel featured (almost) all of the stars of the original, along with a mammoth set of visuals inspired by some of the coolest toys around. But while Transformers 3 received a ton of pre-release hype (for being the third Transformers film), and a lot of post-release agony (for being atrociously boring), it ranked second in movie searches.

Rather than attempt to further extend your anticipation with another this-should-have-been-number-one-but-it's-not paragraph, I'm just going to come out and tell you that Fast Five is not the most searched film of the year.

No, we aren't surprised, and neither is anybody else. (However, I am surprised that it ranked fifth.)

Which brings us to the obvious number-one searched movie of the year: Star Wars. How, you might ask, can a movie about a galaxy far, far away – which was made in the ‘70s, by the way – overcome the modern blockbusters of 2011?

First and foremost, Star Wars has a larger and more loyal legion of fans. The prequels may have been bashed to no end, but that didn't stop a million people from rushing out to buy both Star Wars trilogies on Blu-ray during the first week of release. I'm a Star Wars fan; I love the characters, the music, and even some of the collectibles. But with several versions of the film(s) already in my library (original trilogy on VHS, standard edition; original trilogy on VHS, special edition; original trilogy on DVD; plus all three prequels on DVD), I had no desire to buy them all over again. Though I do suspect I'll re-buy the films when they are released in 3D in 10 years (and plan to see The Phantom Menace 3D in theaters next February).

That level of loyalty – even from me, a Star Wars fan with apparent limits – ensures that this franchise will continue to move mountains in the movie industry.

Further, now that the two trilogies are officially over, Star Wars has the benefit of being referred to simply as “Star Wars.” People are no longer searching for one particular film; they go right to the core name. This will one day happen for Twilight and Harry Potter, and if their franchises stand the test of time, their films could continue to maintain their spot near the top of movie searches. But in 2011, many Potter fans searched for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” while most Twilight fans searched for “Breaking Dawn.”

It would be interesting to know how these franchises compared if all of their related search terms were compiled. Ex: for Harry Potter, we could include all of the film titles, all of the characters, and any other relevant terms. Unfortunately, Experian Hitwise did not provide any such data.

If we were to look at all of the related search terms, I suspect that Twilight would have a significant advantage. The whole “Team Jacob” and “Team Edward” nonsense has been enormously popular with Twilight fans, and would likely give the franchise an impressive boost in search numbers.

Follow me @LouisBedigian


ACTION ITEMS:

Bullish:

The continued success of Star Wars is good news for:

  • 20th Century Fox, the News Corp. (NASDAQ: NWS) (NASDAQ: NWSA) film studio that will be distributing Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3D next year.
  • Hasbro (NASDAQ: HAS), which is planning to boost its bottom line with a new and rehashed line of Star Wars toys in 2012.
  • Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA), whose long-awaited video game based on the George Lucas property – Star Wars: The Old Republic – is finally available.
Bearish:

Is there anyone that could be hurt by Star Wars' continued success?:

  • Movie theater chains like Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE: RGC) and Cinemark (NYSE: CNK) could take a hit if they have too much faith in the 3D re-releases of Star Wars. Their success could go either way, which is where movie theaters tend to get into trouble.
  • If the next line of Star Wars toys flops, retailers like Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) and Target (NYSE: TGT) will be forced to clearance them out after months of slow sales. This would surely have a greater impact on Hasbro than the retailers, who can endure the minor loss. Hasbro cannot. (For immediate updates on Wal-Mart, Target, Hasbro and more, take advantage of the lightning-fast speed of Benzinga Pro.)
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