From superheroes to Star Wars, blockbuster cinematic universes are hot properties in Hollywood, and pretty much every major film studio wants to get in on the action.
On Monday, Comcast's Universal Pictures revealed new details about its own planned cinematic universe, a series of films with overlapping characters and plots based on iconic monster characters from literature and film such as Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Mummy, and others. Universal announced that the series of films is dubbed the Dark Universe, which will kick off with the latest movie version of The Mummy that stars Tom Cruise and opens in theaters in early June.
Universal is tapping into its own intellectual property from previous film adaptations of the classic monster tales the studio released throughout the early 20th Century, including the 1931 adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula and 1935's The Bride of Frankenstein. The latter of those properties will serve as the basis for Universal's next Dark Universe monster movie after next month's The Mummy. The studio announced that it will release a new Bride of Frankenstein film in February 2019 and that the name of the actress playing the title role will be announced "soon." Universal had previously announced that actor Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) would play the iconic role of Frankenstein's monster in future movies.
The studio also noted that Oscar-winning director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) will helm the new Bride of Frankenstein film after most recently directing Walt Disney's live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast that grossed more than $1.2 billion at the global box office earlier this year.
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In addition to announcing the name of the overall franchise on Monday, Universal also revealed a logo and a musical theme from acclaimed composer Danny Elfman, who composed themes for The Simpsons and director Tim Burton's Batman films. (Both the logo and the theme appear at the end of a video released by Universal today to announce the re-release of several classic Universal monster movies on Blu-Ray and DVD.)
Universal also reaffirmed its previously-announced plans to eventually release a large slate of additional monster movies, including an adaptation of The Invisible Man starring Johnny Depp. Actor Russell Crowe is also playing the classic character Dr. Henry Jekyll in The Mummy and his character is expected to play a role in all of the forthcoming monster films as the leader of a mysterious global organization tasked with tracking and containing evil monsters.
"We take enormous pride in the creativity and passion that has inspired the reimagining of Universal’s iconic monsters and promise audiences we will expand this series strategically," Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley said in a statement.
The studio is obviously hoping that it can use its trove of easily recognizable monster characters to mirror some of the success that rival studios like Disney have had in launching mega-franchises. Disney has made a habit of churning out billion-dollar blockbusters with connecting narratives as part of its Marvel (The Avengers) and Lucasfilm (the Star Wars saga) subsidiaries, respectively. Universal isn't alone in trying to emulate Disney's success, as Warner Bros. has its own cinematic universe of superheroes from the pages of DC Comics that has spawned movies such as last year's Batman v Superman and the upcoming Wonder Woman.
Aside from the upcoming slate of Dark Universe films, Universal's current top-grossing franchises are the Fast & Furious series of massively popular auto-centric action movies and the dinosaur action franchise that the studio rebooted with 2015's Jurassic World, which grossed more than $1.6 billion in worldwide ticket sales. (Universal has a Jurassic World sequel planned for 2018.) Meanwhile, in today's Hollywood landscape, the studio with the most successful movie franchises tends to win the annual box office race, and Universal clearly hopes it can unleash several box office monsters with its Dark Universe franchise in the coming years.