Weekly Top 10: The Worst Movie Franchises to Make into Theme Park Attractions

February 15, 2015, 11:31 PM · In honor of 50 Shades of Grey, uh, beating the competition at the box office this weekend (sorry!), let's think about the theme park potential for this emerging film franchise.

Actually, maybe we shouldn't. Franchises translate well to theme parks when they offer fantastic settings that fans long to visit, compelling characters with whom we want to spend our time, and thrilling activity that we wish to join. Okay, maybe 50 Shades of Grey satisfies that for some people, but in a theme park, we need to be okay doing all that in public while our friends and family are watching us. So, um, yeah.

We also should offer the Waterworld disclaimer that any source material can provide the inspiration for a great theme park attraction when the right team and talent is involved. The challenge is to find that right moment, that magical place, or that engaging conflict that can spark a wonderful themed experience, despite whatever else might not have worked in the source material.

Still, not every franchise that hits at the box office offers the right combination of elements that helps it translate to theme parks. Here are 10 successful or emerging film franchises that likely wouldn't sell as many tickets or drive as many fans to the parks as they did to theaters.

Final Destination

Final Destination

The horror genre has proven its worth to the theme park industry, thanks to Universal's Halloween Horror Nights and similar events. But while horror fans have shown their eagerness to confront their fears in a theme park setting, park managers probably aren't too eager to offer fans a franchise that has made a theme park one of its most famous killing grounds.


Photo by Ben Zo - Paramount Pictures

Many theme parks offer stunt shows. And "then something goes terribly wrong" might be the most conventional trope in theme park narratives. So why not bring these two things together and celebrate movie fans' favorite collection of stunts gone wrong? Because, no matter how much parks might be tempted by the thought of luring young fans with a gross-out stunt show, they'd really like to avoid luring OSHA investigators into the park even more.

Hannibal Lecter

Hannibal Lecter

I don't care about the fava beans and the nice Chianti. No one is eating anything in a Hannibal-themed land.

The Fockers

The Fockers
Universal Studios

No theme park is going to build this land for the simple reason that no park needs to. If we really want to see dysfunctional families and laugh at them, that opportunity abounds in theme parks already.


Summit Entertainment

If you're going to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in building a permanent home for an entertainment franchise, you probably will want to avoid a franchise whose conclusion enraged nearly its entire fanbase.


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Actually, maybe a series of dementia-inducing boxing matches might be the perfect theme for a Vekoma Boomerang, after all.

The Hangover

The Hangover
Warner Bros. Ent.

No... roofies, hookers, and a naked Ken Jeong aren't things that anyone wants to see in a theme park. But, just for laughs, maybe someone at Disney could add a few photos from a cast rager into some unlucky guests' Photopass downloads. Have fun explaining those to the kids!

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
Photo by Murray Close - Lions Gate Films Inc.

Selected children run for their lives at the start of day, only to end up in a violent battle for a coveted prize? Sounds like the daily race to the Anna and Elsa standby queue. No thanks.



Come with us to a world of sparkly outcasts who suck the life out of everything. Of an experience centered around an inanimate star, incapable of human expression. Of a constant battle to hold back the basic human urge to be spontaneous and live life with abandon. It's the latest chapter in the Twilight Saga... MagicBand.

50 Shades of Grey

50 Shades of Grey
Photo by Chuck Zlotnick - Universal Pictures

If I want to see women chased and tied up by money-grubbing men, I'll go ride "Pirates of the Caribbean." Wait...too soon?

Replies (26)

February 16, 2015 at 3:37 AM · I'd have added I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! to that list, but then this happened.
February 16, 2015 at 5:36 AM · I told my wife that if her Young & The Restless show was so good, then they would have a theme park ride based on it. It would be like Carousel of Progress: You would go around watching static anamatroncis standing in different rooms, speaking melodramatically. It would go in circles with the same four scenes for an hour, and nothing would be accomplished, learned or developed by the end of it.
At this point my wife threw one of the couch pillow at me.
February 16, 2015 at 8:50 AM · Not so fast about The Hangover. Already an attraction at Madame Tussauds wax museum in Las Vegas. It is formally called "The Hangover Experience".

The Hunger Games is talked about as a theme park attraction. Fans clamor for the on-location sets when the first movie came out. Perhaps Universal can put it in the studios tour as the best option.

Rocky is dead. The musical version didn't last on Broadway. Sylvester Stallone is still looking for a comeback vehicle. I wouldn't bet against him, but without him, it is hard to see how it survives another bout.

Divergent is too much of a Hunger Games rip-off and the movie sucked. I didn't even remember the ending.

Maybe Disney can do a Bachelor or Bachelorette attraction. Singles from around the nation can visit the attraction and get paired up. Should be a better ride than 50 Shades of Pablo.

Hannibal Lecter could be a Halloween Party event at any theme park, but what was once shocking is pretty much tired.

February 16, 2015 at 8:59 AM · "Rocky is dead. The musical version didn't last on Broadway. Sylvester Stallone is still looking for a comeback vehicle. I wouldn't bet against him, but without him, it is hard to see how it survives another bout."

Creed, which has just wrapped recently, and slated for a late 2015 release, is getting some really good buzz.

The Godfather would be a tricky franchise to adapt to a theme park.

Taken would be an awful franchise for a theme park aside from being a generic stunt show.

February 16, 2015 at 9:32 AM · I think Yentl and Ishtar should have made the list.
February 16, 2015 at 9:52 AM · I started with the Box Office Mojo listings of top-grossing franchises and worked my way down that list, adding 50 Shades and Divergent, since they are relatively new, on their first films, but pretty much locks to place highly on that list by the time they wrap. So that's why lower-grossing franchises, single films, and TV shows aren't on my list.

I'd also suggest that there's a difference between creating a props-and-costumes exhibit for fans and a theme park attraction. Or, at least, there should be. To me, the questions to ask are: "Do I want to be immersed in this world, with these characters? And if I do, what am I going to do when I'm there?" If the answers are "no" or "nothing." then the franchise probably wouldn't make a good attraction.

But if I can milk it for a MagicBand joke, hey, I'm in.

February 16, 2015 at 10:16 AM · For nostalgia, why not try Mondwest? A Michael Crichton movie were robots get out of control and kill the guests... Later Crichton wrote Jurassic Park (the book) where dinosaurs eat the guests. But this one made it as a movie and a theme park attraction.
February 16, 2015 at 10:23 AM · Avatars should be on the list. A high tech Pocahontas, with zero memerable characters.
February 16, 2015 at 10:24 AM · This list does help to make Avatar seem like a good idea in comparison.
February 16, 2015 at 10:32 AM · I think Avatar should be on this list. Nobody in their right minds could think this would be a good basis for a theme park attraction. Oh, wait..
February 16, 2015 at 10:58 AM · Lilo and Stitch....oops! they already went there.
February 16, 2015 at 11:29 AM · What about Lost in Space... It certainly won't be bad.
February 16, 2015 at 11:33 AM · Oh wait... a better idea... Rather than Lost in Space, they could have Doctor Who, the single longest running scify series of all time
February 16, 2015 at 11:56 AM · "I'd also suggest that there's a difference between creating a props-and-costumes exhibit for fans and a theme park attraction."

If you're referring to The Hangover attraction at Madame Tussauds, I would argue their exhibits are not behind ropes. You can get close up to the wax figures and there is some immersion in the scenery. You can take photographs with the wax figures and they are amazingly lifelike.

There are also some Hangover tours at Las Vegas. Bus tours, nightclub bar hopping, and Caesar's Palace Hangover tour. They were offered sporatically when the movie sequels premiered.

Perhaps childrens franchises makes more sense than these live action movie franchises. Perhaps there is a middle ground and I'm sure Disney will milk Cinderella, which I recently saw a preview at California Adventure. Full house. Nice special effect of your butt being poked as if there are mouse running around.

I regard Cinderella, Malificent, and Alice in Wonderland as franchises since Disney took its animated movies and branched out into live action. Malificent took lines wholesale from the original animated movies. Alice in Wonderland was a new reinterpretation.

February 16, 2015 at 1:19 PM · I was waiting for the inevitable Avatar comments, but I'd have to say the top grossing movie of all time has many memorable set pieces that would transfer well to attractions.

I personally say The Human Centipede would make for a very poor dark ride.

February 16, 2015 at 1:31 PM · Good Idea, Anon Mouse. High Five.
February 16, 2015 at 1:41 PM · Interesting list Robert. I'd probably add 300, but who wouldn't want a Pit of Death drop ride? Maybe I'm jumping the gun on next week, but how about a list of 10 movie franchises that *should* be in theme parks? Star Trek, the Matrix, James Bond and especially Middle-Earth come to mind.
February 16, 2015 at 2:36 PM · I always wished Universal had built an attraction based on the Kirsten Dunst film, and later franchise "Bring it On". Why? I really didn't care what the ride was about or what it did, I just wanted it to have very strict rules about what sort of loose articles could be allowed on it and a high height restriction.
I wanted to stand at the "Greeter" position and tell people, "Sir, I'm sorry, but that Camcorder...You can't bring it on Bring It On - The Ride." "Mama, I apologize, but your son is too short, so you can't bring him on Bring It On - The Ride."
February 16, 2015 at 3:19 PM · Avatar might not be the best choice for a theme park attraction(s). Yes it's the highest grossest movie of all time, but the film's popularity has diminished since it's release. The visuals are great, the story is not. That said it looks like Disney is doing a great job and it will be popular no matter what people think of the movie, or its yet to be finished sequels.

This list is spot on.

February 16, 2015 at 5:41 PM · Rob, you made me laugh. Nice.

James, that would need a "300" photo op, where the cameras automatically Photoshop cut abs on everyone in the picture.

February 16, 2015 at 6:35 PM · What about a certain fantasy series that's a hot property on HBO these days?


February 16, 2015 at 6:40 PM · How about a theme park based around the complete works of Stanley Kubrick? Just think what fun the little tikes would have running through a snowy hedge maze! Or going to a masquerade ball! Or floating in outer space! Or watching psychadelic movies while strapped in a chair! Or getting to play vietnam-era Marine!
February 16, 2015 at 8:25 PM · James Cameron's AVATAR
...Wait, that's not on this list?
February 17, 2015 at 8:15 AM · I think most people would frown on a theme park attraction based upon "Pink Flamingos" but I'd probably laugh about it and have a nice time.
February 17, 2015 at 10:52 AM · Interestingly enough, I've heard that Paramount toyed with a Jackass themed roller coaster for its American parks in the early 2000s. From what I heard the coaster cars would be shaped as shopping carts and the ride would take you through a bunch of crazy "stunts".
February 18, 2015 at 10:51 AM · The Roller Coaster at New York New York could easily be rethemed to be the 50 Shades of Grey Experience.

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