If audiences are tired of reboots and sequels, that hasn’t stopped them from flocking to see the latest “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie. Even as anticipated tentpoles like “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning” and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” have failed to break even at the box office, Paramount’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” managed to recoup half its $70 million budget five days after its release.
The animated movie’s success isn’t totally surprising given its comparatively small budget and stacked cast. But given that the last film featuring this IP, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” reportedly lost Paramount around $75 million back in 2016, one can’t help but feel the studio took a risk by betting on “Ninja Turtles” again in 2023.
So is “Mutant Mayhem” succeeding because it’s part of an IP that’s nearly 40 years old, or in spite of it? We used the psychographic data engine Ranker Insights to map out fan sentiment for 11 “TMNT” movies and series. What we found was that this IP has been slowly bleeding support over the decades, but “Mutant Mayhem” has a significant opportunity to reverse the trend and reinvigorate this beloved franchise.
Each show or movie’s sentiment score represents the percentage of all the votes cast for it across dozens of Ranker lists that indicate positive sentiment. For instance, 69% of all the votes cast for the original 1980s cartoon express a positive opinion about the show — an upvote on “The Most Unforgettable ’80s Cartoons,” a Ranker list, would be an example of such a vote.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (TV, 1987-1996)
Sentiment score: 69%
Key ranking: No. 1 on “The Most Unforgettable ’80s Cartoons”
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (film, 1990)
Sentiment score: 59%
Key ranking: No. 15 on “The Best Movies of 1990”
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze” (film, 1991)
Sentiment score: 46%
Key ranking: No. 79 on “The Best Movie Sequels Ever Made”
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III” (film, 1991)
Sentiment score: 47%
Key ranking: No. 40 on “The Worst Superhero Movies Ever Made”
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation” (TV, 1997)
Sentiment score: 26%
Key ranking No. 12 on “The Best Movies and Series in the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Franchise” (out of 12)
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (TV, 2003-2009)
Sentiment score: 56%
Key ranking: No. 10 on “The Best ’80s TV Reboots”
“TMNT” (film, 2007)
Sentiment score: 42%
Key ranking: No. 14 The Best PG Martial Arts Movies
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (TV, 2014)
Sentiment score: 49%
Key ranking: No. 2 on “The Best Computer Animation TV Shows”
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (film, 2014)
Sentiment score: 31%
Key ranking: No. 21 on “The Worst Movies Based on TV Shows”
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” (film, 2016)
Sentiment score: 45%
Key ranking: No. 17 on “The Worst Movies of 2016”
“Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (TV, 2018) — 33%
Sentiment score: 33%
Key ranking: No. 388 on “The Best Cartoons of All Time”
The average sentiment score for a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” installment is 45%, with the score of each successive show or movie diminishing by an average of five percentage points. What’s more, our data suggests that a weak entry in the franchise hurts sentiment for more popular titles. In the 12-month period following the release of “Out of the Shadows” in June 2016, the sentiment score for the original 1987 cartoon show “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” dropped by 7.4 percentage points from the previous year.
The good news, though, is that things appear to be turning around. So far, the sentiment score for the original ’80s cartoon in August 2023 is 78.1%, the highest it’s been since before the premiere of “Out of the Shadows.” The sentiment score for the 1990 movie is also higher than average so far this month, with 66% of votes indicating positive sentiment.
The truth is that this franchise has been losing juice for decades. Our data suggests that each new chapter in the “TMNT” saga tends to be less popular than the one preceding it, though it could also mean that the franchise’s fanbase is largely made up of older fans who aren’t open to new takes on the saga. Either situation isn’t great for “Mutant Madness.”
But never has there been so much Hollywood clout behind a “TMNT” film as with “Mutant Madness.” It’s not a question of whether the movie’s A-list cast, strong reviews and early box office success will succeed at rekindling passion for the franchise among parenting-age older fans while introducing the characters to younger ones. It’s a question of whether it can be effective enough at doing so to reverse the fortunes of a struggling franchise.
Ryan Mach is a content marketing manager at Ranker, a WrapPRO partner. For more from Ranker, visit the Data and Analysis Hub.
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