10,000 Tiny Franchises

A tale of two movies on entirely different paths.


  • Inside Out 2 generated almost $300M in its opening weekend.

  • Disney used Disney+ and ticket discounts for successful marketing.

  • The movie industry faces a power law distribution in movie success.

  • The Nouns Movie represents a low-budget, community-driven production model.

  • The future of franchises may lie in smaller, internet-native IPs.

Inside Out 2, Pixar’s latest movie, generated almost $300M in box office revenue for its opening weekend. Setting a new record for any animated movie. After a lacklustre few years, this opening was vital for Disney.

The company showed its ecosystem powers as it leveraged Disney+ for marketing and even offered discounted movie tickets to subscribers in select geo’s. There was no option for Disney to not have this movie open big.

It’s a moment in Hollywood that puts a few things on display at the same time

  • The increasing power law distribution of movies (either a movie becomes a cultural moment or it craters)

  • The latent power of potent IP

  • The fragility of the current state of affairs

In a different corner of the world, there was a different premier happening the same weekend. This one was much smaller, very different but maybe all the more important: The third episode of the Nouns Movie.

I wrote about the project previously here.

Quick recap: Nouns is a headless brand community organized via NFT ownership. The community governs a treasury of funds that is used to expand and evolve the brand. Anyone can submit proposals, and the community votes on which initiatives to finance.

One of those initiatives is the Nouns Movie. It’s being produced and released episode-by-episode.

You can watch latest episode here:

The contrast between Disney’s Inside Out 2 premiere and the Nouns Movie is as fascinating as it is important.

Disney poured $200M into this movie. Like I said, it had to work. And it will. Already is. The question is, how many times can the same model be repeated, with the same recirculated IP?

That’s the question Hollywood is simultaneously asking itself but also fear the answer of.

On the other hand, the budget for the finished Nouns Movie is $1-2M.

You could make 100+ of them for the price of Inside Out 2. Think about that for a second.

The reason Hollywood keeps returning to established IP is because it’s long been perceived as a safe bet. At least, safer than trying to spin up an entirely new franchise. Sequels are the Hollywood version of “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”.

However, what slowly happens, and that’s what we’re starting to see signals of now, is that attention drifts. Established IP have powerful network effects that retains latent attention over time. But, it’s not forever. Consumer age up, new generations of consumers enter the marketplace. Often with its own gravitational field of cultural objects that matter.

Which is more recognizable for an average 16 year old today? The Punisher or Pepe?

It’s likely that the traditional movie industry will continue to play it safe, but there is a case to be made for rethinking this entirely:

Instead of one $200M movie, what about ten $20M movies? Or even a hundred $2M movies?

The path to continued, sustainable box office success requires adapting content – stories, brand, and characters - to the cultural zeitgeist. The entertainment industry is not static, nor is the consumers, fans. The ground underneath everyone is steadily shifting.

The Nouns movie exemplifies a playbook I’ve written about numerous times: Recognizing that the next wave of franchise-potential IP already exists online. It’s all around us. From memes to headless brands like the Nouns. Cultural objects that communities form around. Care about.

These are the seeds of the next franchises.

Considering this approach to discovering and refining new, engaging stories to tell is all the more exciting when combined with the power of blockchain networks:

From capital formation to inclusive, participatory fan experiences to smart contract based IP graphs.

I hope global, blockbuster-level franchises will exist in the future. Movies that become cultural moments. But, I hope they exist alongside 10,000 tiny franchises, enabling many creators to tell their stories, and many communities to participate in the process.

I think that’s the future of franchises.