Live-action superhero series are big business for television today, with shows as diverse as Jessica Jones, Arrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Supergirl all winning loyal followings. But in the 1990s, only one such live-action TV series reigned supreme: Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. One of the most popular children’s franchises produced during the ’90s, the series has run continuously from its original heyday up through the present.
A big-budget theatrical movie reboot of the property (officially titled Saban’s Power Rangers) is now on the way from Lionsgate. The studio has high hopes that Power Rangers will kick-off a lucrative franchise – one that could encompass as many as six or seven films total, if all goes according to plan.
The proud projections are sourced from a 5/26 conference call between Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer and industry analysts, wherein the studio’s future plans and financial standings were discussed along with the most recent earnings reports. While also acknowledging the year’s significant missteps (such as the botched release of the third Divergent film, Allegiant), the CEO cited positive response to Power Rangers‘ casting and the first reveal of the main heroes’ redesigned costumes as reasons to be bullish about the property (per Variety):
“We are really, really excited about the ‘Power Rangers’ movie. We could see doing five or six or seven.”
That kind of projection may seem overeager as Power Rangers doesn’t have quite the pop-cultural cache with studio executives and industry analysts as the likes of Batman, Superman or any of the Marvel heroes – though, the franchise’s historic endurance could be one very good reason Lionsgate could be so confident in it. Not only has the series run for 24 successful seasons and counting, it is itself an adaptation of the Japanese “Super Sentai” series – which has also been running continuously in its home country since the mid-1970s. Given that pedigree and the long-term nature of modern superhero franchise longevity (the Marvel Cinematic Universe is nearly a decade old spanning 13 films, while the X-Men are in their 16th year) the potential for a lengthy series of Power Rangers features could almost be considered conservative.
Before that, however, the first installment will have to prove itself successful – and thus far, while Power Rangers has always been big on television, its luck in theaters has been quite the opposite. Despite major hype, the first Power Rangers film (set outside the continuity of the series and produced by filmmakers largely unfamiliar with either the show or the original Japanese material) was only a modest success at the box office in 1995 ($66 million worldwide on a $15 million budget), while a second film (Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie) only took in $9.6 million worldwide in 1997.
The 2017 Power Rangers movie reboot (a reworking of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers storyline and characters) is likely banking the combined consumer power of now-adult fans of the original series and younger fans of the current incarnation. Whether either audience can generate the interest necessary for a seven film slate remains to be seen.
Saban’s Power Rangers opens in U.S. theaters on March 24th, 2017.