Every great franchise starts with a strong original movie, like how Iron Man launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, not every film that's intended to be the first in a new franchise is successful enough for the studio to justify continuing the franchise.
Here are 13 movies that were supposed to launch a new franchise but failed:
1. The Last Airbender, M. Night Shyamalan's widely criticized 2010 live-action adaptation of the popular Nickelodeon animated series, was initially supposed to get a "much darker" sequel. Time said that "the promise of a sequel at this movie's end feels more like a threat" — and Paramount Pictures never carried out that threat, letting sequel plans fall to the wayside.
2. Released in 2007, The Golden Compass was intended to be the first installment in a film adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. However, both a global recession and criticism from the Catholic church (in the form of boycotts and claims the film promoted atheism) contributed to the ultimate cancellation of the planned sequels.
It was rebooted as the BBC One and HBO series His Dark Materials in 2019.
3. 2011's Green Lantern was initially poised as the launching pad for a new DC movie universe, but after an underwhelming box office performance and mostly negative reviews, Warner Bros canned plans for a sequel. Two years later, they found a more successful start with Man of Steel.
4. The 2003 live-action adaptation of The Cat in the Hat was so poorly received that Audrey Stone Geisel banned Hollywood from ever adapting her late husband's works into live-action productions again.
The film rights to the Fantastic Four characters have since reverted back to Marvel Studios, who currently have a reboot in the works.
7. After decades in development hell, John Carter finally came out in 2012. Based on the novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, it was supposed to be the first installment in an adaptation of the Barsoom series, but audience interest declined before the first film's release. Despite strong reviewers, there was never enough enthusiasm to warrant a sequel.
8. Eragon was meant to be the first installment in an adaptation of Christopher Paolini's The Inheritance Cycle series. Director Stefen Fangmeier intended to shoot the next two "as one production," but due to criticism that the original was a "shabby Lord of the Rings ripoff," he never got to make them.
9. Released in 2010, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was supposed to launch Disney's next Pirates of the Caribbean-esque franchise. Despite being the highest-grossing video game adaptation at the time, it didn't make enough money or generate enough audience interest to garner a sequel for the "mildly entertaining and immediately forgettable" film.
10. Daredevil (2003) had an alright box office performance, but after how poorly the spinoff Elektra performed, Fox put Matt Murdock on the backburner. In 2006, lead actor Ben Affleck called the role a "source of humiliation" and said he'd never do a sequel.
11. Playtone optioned the first two installments of Jeanne DuPrau's Books of Ember series. After City of Ember grossed a measly $17 million globally, the production company canceled The People Of Sparks.
12. 2013's The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was meant to launch a franchise based on the series The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. However, after its disappointing performance at the box office, the sequel The Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes was pushed back indefinitely.
It was rebooted as a Freeform TV series called Shadowhunters in 2016.