A media franchise is an intellectual property involving the characters, setting, and trademarks of an original work of media (usually a work of fiction), such as a film, a work of literature, a television program, or a video game. Generally, a whole series is made in that particular medium, along with merchandising and endorsements. Multiple sequels are often planned well in advance and, in the case of motion pictures, actors and directors often sign multi-film deals to ensure their participation.
Some media franchises are accidental, such as the Ma and Pa Kettle series of films (the title characters of which broke out of the 1947 film The Egg and I), and some are planned, such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The most profitable film franchises include Star Wars, James Bond, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings.
Long-running film franchises were common in the studio era, when Hollywood studios had actors and directors under long-term contract. Examples include Andy Hardy, Ma and Pa Kettle, Bulldog Drummond, Superman, Tarzan, and Sherlock Holmes. The longest-running modern film franchises include James Bond, Godzilla, Friday the 13th, and Star Trek. In such cases, even lead actors are often replaced as they age, lose interest, or their characters are killed.
Media franchises tend to cross over from their original media to other forms. Literary franchises are often transported to film, such as Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, and other popular detectives, and Superman, Spider-Man, and other popular comic book superheroes. Television and film franchises are often expanded upon in novels, particularly those in the fantasy and science fiction genres, such as Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Star Wars. Similarly, fantasy and science fiction films and television series are frequently adapted into animated television series or video games, and vice versa.
Non-fiction literary franchises include the ...For Dummies and The Complete Idiot's Guide to... reference books. The Playboy franchise began with the pornographic magazine, and has since expanded to include a television channel, numerous direct to video films, books (including collections of non-pornographic short stories that had originally appeared in the magazine), and countless articles of clothing and other pieces of merchandising.