The Greatest Movie Franchises of All Time

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How does Spy Kids stack up among the 50 biggest film series ever?

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The fourth installment of the Spy Kids franchise, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, hits theaters this Friday. It's the first release since 2003 for the series, which has raked in an average of over $100 million at the box office per film—not bad for a franchise with such a specific target audience. Critics, however, have waned in their support of the franchise, giving the films progressively worse reviews with each installment. But taking both box office and critical score into account, how will Spy Kids compare to the Greatest Movie Franchises Ever?

For a movie series marketed directly to kids and families, Spy Kids has been remarkably successful. When adjusted for inflation, the average gross across the franchise becomes $141 million—good enough to surpass the average grosses of more-adult series like Scream, Hannibal Lecter, and Planet of the Apes. The first Spy Kids film was warmly embraced by critics, too, earning a staggering 93 percent approval rating on critics site Rotten Tomatoes. Andy Geller at USA Today called it, "A good live-action children's movie—a species so rare that many presumed it extinct." The first sequel was well-reviewed, as well, but Spy Kids: 3D was largely panned in 2003. In ranking the 50 Greatest Movie Franchises of All Time, however, we take into account both box office and critical reception. Spy Kids sits comfortably at number 29—making it not only one of the most successful kids' franchises ever, but movie franchise in general. How will All the Time in the World affect its ranking?

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Back in September, for the seventh Harry Potter film's release, we used a formula that took both box office and critics score into account to rank the 50 Greatest Movie Franchises of All Time. Here's an abbreviated explanation of the process we used to come up with those rankings:

To determine the film's financial success, we adjusted the grosses for each film in every series for inflation using a ratio of today's average movie ticket price to the average cost the year the movie was released. We then averaged those results.

To determine a film's critical success, we used Rotten Tomatoes' critics' scores. We then found the average for each franchise's films.

Given the recent spate of franchise revivals after many dormant years (Planet of the Apes and Scream, for example) it's easy to understand why The Weinstein Company would want to return to the series. Particularly when you consider how high kids' franchises rank on the list of Greatest Movie Franchises—Toy Story is No. 2, Ice Age is No. 23, and even The Santa Clause ranks at No. 41—releasing another Spy Kids sequel seems like a smart move. But as we've already learned this year, releasing another sequel in a franchise is still a risk, one that can dramatically affect its ranking on the list of Greatest Movie Franchises.

A fourth installment of the Scream franchise, released this spring, was the worst-performing film in that series, bringing its ranking down from 30 to 37. When Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides kicked off the summer movie season in May, Pirates was one of the most successful franchises, ranking number 13. Now, thanks to poor reviews, it's No. 17. The X-Men series had the opposite problem when it gambled on another sequel, First Class. The movie was well-reviewed, but a disappointing box office caused it to slip one spot, to No. 16. As a testament to how important boasting equally impressive box office gross and reviews is, Transformers enters the chart at No. 32—its No. 19 box office ranking being dragged way down by a pitiful 52nd place in critical score.

But that's not to say that a well-done, well-marketed series revival can't be lucrative. A surprisingly rapturous critical reception and breakout box-office performance by Rise of the Planet of the Apes earlier this month helped raise the Planet of the Apes ranking from 46 to 43 on the list, and could get higher as the film continues to make money in wide release. The surprise box office and critical success of Fast Five—by far the best-reviewed film in the Fast and the Furious series—launched its ranking from a barely-on-the-list No. 50 to No. 45.

So how will All the Time in the World affect Spy Kids? It's receiving the widest release of any film this weekend, with 3,000 theaters, and is the only new family-friendly film coming out. It should enjoy a healthy box office return because of that (not to mention intrigue over the aroma scope technology that will allow audiences to smell the film). Early reviews for the film have yet to be released, but the star power has piled on for this sequel—including Antonio Banderas, Ricky Gervais, Joel McHale, and Jeremy Piven—hinting that, at the very least, critics will find it diverting summer fare. In the end, the Spy Kids ranking could improve after this release.

Read a fuller analysis, posted when the seventh Harry Potter film hit theaters: "The Greatest Movie Franchises of All Time." The gallery in the post has been updated to reflect current rankings.

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Kevin Fallon is a reporter for the Daily Beast. He's a former entertainment editor at TheWeek.com and former writer and producer for The Atlantic's entertainment channel.

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