Opinion: Narnia No More?

The Future of Narnia Rests On…
by GlumPuddle

It does not seem like that long ago that Disney departed, and left the Narnia franchise in limbo (December 2008). It was an uncomfortable thirty days for fans as we waited to see if someone would pick up the franchise. Many feared the series would end with Prince Caspian. Finally it was announced that Fox would co-finance and distribute The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Phew! Fans breathed a sigh of relief, and the discussion shifted to the usual speculation and anticipation for the next chapter.

Now, two years later, Narnia once again feels as if it is in limbo. Neither Walden nor Fox has officially backed out, but this nine-week news blackout following the release of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is enough to make many fans more than a little nervous about the future of the series. (Prince Caspian was green-lit less than a week after LWW released.)

I think most NarniaWebbers, regardless of how they felt about the first three films, would be sad to see it end here. Will another Narnia film be made? That’s the question I am going to explore, and I think the best place to start is the very beginning: Lets go back to basics…

Why do studios green-light sequels?

A studio makes a sequel when

1) A film was a box office success
2) They think audiences would like to see “more of it.”
3) There is a large “built-in” audience that will go see the sequel no matter what.

The first Pirates of the Caribbean, for example, did far better than even Disney expected, and this prompted them to green-light two sequels. Both sequels set box office records. Clearly the first Pirates was a box office success (1),  audiences wanted to see more (2), and there was a built-in fanbase that was excited about sequels before they even saw a trailer (3).

Reason #2 makes the Narnia books a difficult sell as a franchise. The marketing campaign for most sequels is based around the idea that if you liked the first movie, you’ll probably like this one too. But, unlike The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, each Narnia book stands alone as something different from the rest of the series. You may like one book, but that does not mean you will like the rest. The difference in tone between LWW and PC illustrates this marketing problem perfectly.

(I think this shift it tone was in keeping with the books. PC, which is a story about the sadness of the old simple days being lost, should be darker than LWW. But it made it a difficult sequel to sell to a mass audience)

Why was Prince Caspian green-lit?

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was also a huge hit, grossing $740m worldwide. Without a doubt, the numbers justified a sequel. Clearly, LWW was a box office success. But did audiences want to see more of it? In my opinion, this is where Disney and Walden misjudged the situation. Although audiences mostly liked LWW, I don’t think people walked out of the theater wondering when the sequel was coming out. I never felt a sense of anticipation from the general public for ‘Narnia 2.’ People seemed much more excited about ‘Indiana Jones 4.’

“We got cocky,” Micheal Flaherty (Walden Media president) admitted. “We thought we just needed to let people know the date [Prince Caspian] would be coming out.” This is probably the reason the marketing for PC was not nearly as widespread as LWW. PC would go on to gross $420m worldwide: A respectable number, but below expectations and it probably didn’t pay the bills.

Why was Dawn Treader green-lit?

The general consensus seems to be that PC did disappointing box office for a few reasons:

1) Poor release date: Sandwiched between Iron Man and Indy.
2) Lack of marketing: Shortly after PC’s release, Micheal Flaherty’s pastor said to him, “Yeah [the movie] was great, I just wish I had known when it came out, I could have said something earlier.”
3) Less popular source material: Whenever we poll NarniaWebbers for their favorite Narnia book, PC is near the bottom.
4) Darker, more realistic tone than LWW (which I think the book dictated to an extent).

I think Fox realized all this. So they decided …

1) Narnia was better suited for a December release.
2) The series was not so popular that it didn’t need a strong marketing campaign.
3) VDT was stronger source material. Whenever we poll NarniaWebbers for their favorite book, VDT is near the top.
4) Many moviegoers who liked LWW were scared away by PC’s darkness.

Fox apparently decided there was still some milk left in Narnia, and that they could learn from LWW’s success and PC’s failure. They saw that LWW was a box office success, and that if they returned to the magic of that film, perhaps audiences would want to see more of it. This is the reason the idea of “returning to magic” dominated VDT’s marketing campaign.

So…will another Narnia film be green-lit?!

Despite a huge marketing campaign, VDT had a disappointing opening weekend. It grossed a mere $24m domestically (far below expectations), but has performed well internationally. (VDT has not yet opened in Japan. LWW grossed $57m there, and PC $27m.)

The box office numbers for PC and VDT seem to indicate that Narnia does not have a large built-in fanbase that will go see the films no matter what (even if ever single NarniaWebber goes to see the movie, that’s less than $1m). At least, not large enough to justify a huge production budget. BUT!

Walden Media is still the driving force behind these films, and we have no reason to believe they are not pushing to keep them going. PC and VDT did not set any records, but neither was a total flop. I think if Walden Media proposes a smaller budget for the next Narnia film, Fox (or perhaps another studio) will look at the films international box office and decide there is still some profit to be made.

Okay, so you think another Narnia film will probably be green-lit. But, which one?!

When Mark Johnson said they were considering making The Magician’s Nephew next instead of The Silver Chair, I didn’t really take him seriously. Fans voted overwhelmingly to make The Silver Chair next. It is the logical sequel, and if they don’t make it soon, Will Poulter’s age could become a big problem. But now that that the VDT box office numbers are in… I’m not so sure.

Consider this: What do you think would be easier to market: A “VDT sequel” or a “LWW prequel”?

LWW grossed $745m, and VDT grossed approximately $400m. Walden might see more box office potential in The Magician’s Nephew. I can see audiences being excited by a trailer for MN that emphasized the “prequel” side of it. People might be interested in seeing the origin of Narnia, the wardrobe, and the White Witch. It would be unexpected; it might grab people’s attention. There would be a close connection to LWW, unlike SC. The Magician’s Nephew is also one of the most popular Narnia books, whereas The Silver Chair has sold the fewest number of copies.

You might be thinking, “How could they make MN next? Obviously SC should come after VDT! And they have to make SC now, or they probably never will!” I agree; I think making SC next makes the most sense in terms of story-telling. But, because of PC and VDT’s box office, I don’t believe Walden has the luxury of thinking long-term. From here on out, the franchise must try to survive one movie at a time.

Don’t panic!

At this point, there is nothing we can do. I don’t think write-in campaigns will affect Fox/Walden’s decision. My advice is to remember one thing: Whatever happens, we will always have the books! I have read each book at least a dozen times, and I am constantly finding more depth. The legacy of Narnia lives on, regardless of what happens with its adaptations.

Either way, further up and further in!

111 Responses

  1. Edmund the Just says:

    At least I have complete assurance for The Hobbit.

  2. Stephen Konwinski says:

    On money They look like they are in hundreds of millions All 3 would make it in Fran Schaeffers system. Mr. Lewis's kin said each successive film would improve on the previous film. They seem on target and hard to improve. I say it's DDay in films We are winning heavy. Sail on and on and on!!! If I had a billion dollars in gold I'd probably donate it for the sake of truth, skill, the memeory of CS Lewis and the gospel. My applause to Disney. EOM


    • Hiking Peter says:

      Soooo, do you have a british accent?????

      • Jill_Pole says:

        I do, I am Australian, but am English and have been there many times and pick up the accent when talking to people. I think I would suit Jill rather than Polly, but could do both 😀
        (i wish…. dream role)

  4. narniafan#1 says:

    Thanks for this article! The logic is sound and not panic-making. Even if MN is green-lit first, better SOME movie than NO movie! I will be extremely sad if another movie is not made, but you are right- the books are what count! I am getting ready to start reading them to my siblings for the first time- magical feeling!

  5. CoriaKing says:

    Not to be pessimistic in the least bit, but I was severely disappointed when I saw VDT. I hope they at least slow down production of the movies until somebody comes along who has as much passion for Narnia as Peter Jackson did and does for LOTR.

  6. AZExpedition says:

    One word – the green mist – really? – what was that? OK, three words, but do they have to find something to make the story more "better"? It distracted from the most excellent scenes. How will they make the silver chair "compelling".

  7. LovesXitX says:

    i Want them to carry on making the film no matter what order they do !x

  8. Nick says:

    all Nania movied suck!!! I did not like the first one or the second or the third. The first one looked fake. The designs for the Ice Castle were horrible! Blue chair? Really? Is that the best you can come up with for ice designs? Another mistake they made, was that they made the crucifix scene too theatrical. All the weird creatures looked retarded. They didn't make any sense. Another mistake was in cast. Edmond is the only one who is cute. The rest of them are plain ugly, with those big, fish lips and watery eyes. Stupid casting!!! Another mistake was that they made the movies tooooo childish!!! Kids are not that naive now days! This is a reason Lord of the Rings was so successful, because kids and adults enjoyed it alike! Kids want to be taken in a world that seems real, not fake! You cannot full kids now days! They are a lot brighter than they seem! Narnia movies sucked donkey balls!!! I'm sorry, but this is true! May be in 20 years they'll make REAL Narnia movies…

    • Luis heroe says:

      is right, children are not dumb, I think the children enjoy good movies as well as adults,
      Peter Jackson should direct all of Narnia movies.
      Also the Narnia books are not specifically for children things happen, sometimes mention things like:
      – .. and he cut off his head, or is killed, or that there are wars.

    • Narnias #1 Fan says:

      Um, Nick. Sorry to break your bubble but um if you hate Narnia movies, DON'T WATCH THEM. I didn't like Prince Caspian much, but the The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was the best of the three and I recommend it to all The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe fans!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Narnian Lover says:

      I will have to say I agree with narnia#1 fan. I know that prince caspian was a let down but still lww was good. To be honest I think the director did a great job, if you think about it you can't just walk into a wardrobe and find narnia and all the creatures were great and they did a really good job in finding 4 actors, that can act and all look like they are brothers and sisters, even if you don't think they look good that's not important is it? If you don't think there good then by all means don't watch then. If you watch behind the scenes you will see how hard it is to film narnia and how much work they put into it.

    • Hiking Peter says:

      Here are some tips for you: 1. get your eyes checked. 2. could YOU DO IT ANY BETTER??????? 3. THIS IS NARNIA. PEOPLE AREN'T HUMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4. Please stop criticizing the casting. I personally think I would be watery-eyed if my King were DYING IN FRONT OF MY EYES!

    • NarniaFan says:

      Um Nick I'm not usally a type of person who'd be negative or anything but ,really , if don't like Narnia then don't watch it or read comments and stuff 'bout it . No offense . Do u get my meaning ? Sorry if I'm being mean 🙂

  9. Chrissie says:

    Oh no! I love the Silver Chair I hope they make that next! I would love to audition!

    • iLuvNarnia says:

      I think all the Narnia movies were great and if you dont like them then back off! By the way Georgie Henly and Anna Popplewell are really pretty! I would love to audition for Jill too!!!

      • NarniaFan says:

        I'm planning on auditioning for Jill if they make SC or Polly if they make MN . I have an english accent too and I have some acting experence ( Sorry if I didn't spell that correctly I'm an auther but that doesn't mean i can spell good ) I've read every single book about Narnia on the planet and seen every movie includiing the originals ! I luv Narnia

  10. jdennis_99 says:

    I think the big problem with PC and VDT was the marketing – firstly, with PC, not enough of it, and secondly, with VDT, targeting the wrong people.

    LWW made a massive effort to target the Christian community, something which has been lacking in the other two films. More appeal needs to be made to this important demographic, emphasising the Christian aspect of the films.

    The way the directors have handled the religious connotations has been spot-on – it isn't overt, and it doesn't feel uncomfortable in the cinema. The last thing people want is to feel like they're being preached at – but at the same time, PC & VDT have missed out on the attention that could have been given by the Christian community.

    Of course, it is somewhat easier to market LWW on this basis, given the link with the crucifixion – the links in the other films are less obvious. But just my thoughts.

  11. lsiles says:

    Pienso que deberian arriesgarse y hacer la silla de plata, ya que de no ser tan buena, a futuro les queda el sobrino del mago, que de hecho estoy muy seguro que sera un exito!!! y al final la ultima batalla que tambien es muy buena, es decir seria buena forma de sobrevivir y lograr ver narnia en los cines en un futuro…ya narnia es una maravilla!!!!

  12. Hobbs says:

    I really want another Narnia film to be greenlit. When I was a kid, I remember a travelling drama group coming to my school and performing The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe for my year. When I was 16, I went to see the film version with my big sis in the cinema and I absolutely loved it.

    Kids need these movies. There are so much a part of British culture and they have inspired generations upon generations of children and adults. In fact, I used to work in a cinema and most of the people who came to see Voyage of the Dawn Treader were from the age range of 7-78. There is a need for these kinds of films, especially with the end of Harry Potter looming.

    So, if you are reading this Fox and Walden Media, please, please, PLEASE continue with the series. Generations are depending on them.

    • Hobbs says:

      Now if Magician's Nephew were to be made next, like the late Perry Moore (RIP) had originally secured, it could be a chance to take Narnia back to its roots. I mean, it's another of the best known books, after LWW and VOTDT, and, despite the fact there is not much action, they can easily re-arrange it in a way that is actually relevant to the source material, unlike in VOTDT. They could easily show Jadis as she enters Narnia, it's birth, and how she gains control over the newborn country. It could also makes some strong references (as there are in the book) as to certain events in LWW.

      Maybe if they see a script, Fox and Walden may give it the go ahead, and if it succeeds, maybe they will continue the series onwards!

  13. Lucylove says:

    I think the problem is that the advertise like it's for teens and adults then they advertise like it's for real little kids I don't get that.

  14. eastdragon says:

    I'm a huge fan of C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia and have read them all countless times (the only series I've probably re-read more is J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, which is my all-time favorite). I would definitely vote to have Silver Chair as the next film and think it would be wrong to release them in the "wrong" order. I've enjoyed all three of the films thus far, though I'm probably more than a bit biased…and in discussing the movies with friends who were disappointed in one or the other, I can see why some of the films might not have had the same appeal to them as they do to a die-hard fan like myself. Regardless, I hope that all seven of the books will eventually make it to the big screen again! 😉

  15. Juzuma says:

    It can't be green lit for me! My favourite films about Narnia? No! It will be continue! (I can't speak English very well).

  16. Michael McDaid says:

    I just hope they green light another Narnia movie. It would make more sense to do Silver Chair. But for the sake of the franchise and maybe making more Magican's Nephew maybe the better choice. I like all the books. Hope Fox approves it. But its budget will probably be smaller.

  17. Christ's girl says:

    Don't end the movies now! Give us MORE!!! Please!

  18. Edmond's Queen says:

    well, i personally think that they should make "The Last Battle" next, because the Pevensie children are needed in the end. i know it'd be covfusine to see Jill and not know who she is, but if the actors that play the Pevensies get much older, they wont look right for the part. THEN they should make "The Silver Chair" because Es….um….Estce….well, their cousin and Jill will be needed in it. Then after that they should make "The Magician's Nephew" and finnally they are free to make the final and best movise of them all. "The Horse and His Boy." idk why i like it so much, its cool, but that's the way the should make 'em. haha, ive had this fixed in my head since 2005 when the first one came out…:)……ha, it IS true….i AM a freak 4 this movie…:)

  19. fbfnarniagirl99 says:

    well edmond's queen if you don't remember the pevensie children are not aloud back into narnia and in " the horse and his his boy" susan, lucy, and edmend are in that book so i bet they won't make "the hores and his boy"

  20. daggermeetscordial says:

    i would love to audition for digory (btw im english)

  21. David says:

    I love the movies! LWW was the best, and ya the other two were a toned done, but I hope they continue in the series. The only thing I don't like is that they have seemed to make the movies a little more kiddish, adults like this movie too. I just hope the get a director that has the passion and love for the story's like the first director did. It just seems they need to bring back that magic like it had in lww, the music, the acting, the locations, tone,the work they put into it like they did the first.and just not so kiddish.