It's finally happened: after a lengthy court case, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon has approved the AT&T-Time Warner merger. The Justice Department had argued that the merger would lead to fewer choices for customers and higher prices for television and internet services; they'd been unable to prove their case to Leon's satisfaction, and their attempt to block the merger has finally been overturned.
It's important to understand just why this merger has happened. The entertainment industry is currently undergoing a seismic change, and companies believe they need two things in order to compete; an archive of quality content, and a strong, national (preferably global) digital distribution network. In the case of the AT&T-Time Warner merger, AT&T has the network, and Time Warner has a massive content library including some classic franchises.
Some of these franchises are ripe for relaunch, while others will sit on AT&T's back catalogue, potentially forming a core part of a future digital offering. In the case of Time Warner, this service would need to incorporate a wide range of R-rated horror content, meaning this could be a real rival to current streaming services.
This Page: Ongoing Franchises
One of the most successful modern horror franchises, The Conjuring is released under the New Line imprint. The films are based on the real-life adventures of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren; given the length of the Warrens' career, there's potentially no end to the franchise. The Nun releases this year and Warner Bros. has scheduled Annabelle 3 for 2019, and AT&T will definitely want to keep this franchise going.
The DC Extended Universe
The DC Extended Universe has had something of a troubled start, but its films contain some of the biggest brands in the world - iconic characters like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. The studio is hoping to put past controversy behind it, with a focus on upcoming films such as Aquaman, Shazam!, and Wonder Woman 2.
Behind-the-scenes, DC Films is currently undergoing a significant corporate restructure, with Walter Hamada appointed president in January. Chief creative officer Geoff Johns has recently stepped down, abandoning the exec role and instead returning to creating new content. The plan for the future is slowly becoming clear, making this a strong franchise going forward.
Related: Casting The Bat Family For The DCEU
Warner Bros. owns all of DC Entertainment and, in addition to the DCEU, is interested in developing a series of "Elseworlds-esque" movies - standalone films that are set in a different reality to the DCEU. The first of these will be an as-yet-untitled Joker origin story, with Joaquin Phoenix reportedly in talks to play the Joker. But it's also possible that both Ava DuVernay's New Gods and Matt Reeves's The Batman will actually be separate from the DCEU as well.
The DC Comics portfolio has almost unlimited potential for movie adaptations. While it's most famous for its Justice League characters - notably Batman and Superman - the comic book publisher has actually created a wide range of concepts and ideas. 2006's award-winning V for Vendetta, for example, was a political thriller, a dystopian science-fiction film, and an adroit social commentary. AT&T would be wise to dig deep into DC's various comic book imprints.
Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts
Harry Potter's story may be over, but J. K. Rowling returned to the franchise in 2016's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Essentially a prequel series of films, Fantastic Beasts tells the story of Eddie Redmayne's Newt Scamander. The franchise will continue in November, with the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Rowling reportedly has plans for a whole series of films, leading to the final battle between Dumbledore and Grindelwald in 1945. That's enough to keep the franchise going for at least another decade or so (and then, of course, Harry could return).
The LEGO Movies
Based on the construction toys, LEGO is a hugely popular range of films associated with writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Work is currently underway on The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, due to release in 2019, while a spinoff The Billion Brick Race is currently in limbo. The franchise hasn't grown at the rates expected, but more sequels are likely. Given the kid-focus this is a strong get for AT&T.
2015's critically-acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road is generally viewed as one of the best action films of the decade - if not all time. It was the first film in the Mad Max franchise to be nominated for an Academy Award, and won six of its ten nominations. According to George Miller and Brendan McCarthy, during production they found they had enough material for two additional scripts, and Tom Hardy is signed up to star in three more parts of the series. Unfortunately, sequels have been held up by a lawsuit between Miller and Warner Bros.. It's unclear how the AT&T merger affects that, but the franchise is definitely still on audience's minds.