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Posterized: Promotions to Film for TV Casts

With Downton Abbey (2019) in theaters today and already threatening a sequel let's talk movie spin-offs of TV shows. TV shows have been adapted into feature films for as long as we can recall, but up until the 21st century it was more common for feature films to be adapted into TV shows.

Examples of TV series getting their own theatrical film outing with the original cast intact dates back to, we think, Dragnet (1954) and Batman The Movie (1966), both of which had one theatrical release during their TV runs. But it was fairly rare until recently and it has usually only happened after a television series has wrapped. A large part of this becoming more common obviously has to do with the narrowing gap between how audiences experience TV and film. On a less obvious and more theoretical level we suspect its due to the even newer cultural trend of immediate / perpetual nostalgia. It used to be that there had to be a bit of distance before the populace got collectively teary-eyed with longing but... no longer! 

Batman got a movie in the summer of 1966, even though it has just premiered on television in January of that same year.

You can now be wistful for things you experienced just the year or even a few months before and demand that they come back to you in the closest approximation possible. 

Let's look at some examples of this increasingly popular trend leading up to Downton Abbey (2019). How many of these spinoffs have you seen? The posters are after the jump...

This was a major event in 1979, capitalizing on the popularity of the series in syndication 10 years after it had gone off the year after just three seasons. It was the 5th highest grosser of 1979, behind just Kramer vs Kramer, The Amityville Horror, Rocky II, and Apocalypse Now and just ahead of the sci-fi horror classic Alien

Largely disliked upon arrival (very quickly after the series had wrapped) it's now quite well regarded. It flopped in theaters only grossing 4 million domestically. 

The Star Trek: New Generation cast took over the film franchise with this outing. It was a success in US theaters grossing $75 million

South Park got a movie just a couple of years after the series began which was a modest hit and even snaggged and Oscar nomination for Best Original Song "Blame Canada". The show is still on the air after 22 seasons. 

Not the first example of a quickly cancelled series to get its own movie but maybe the only series with only one season to get a theatrical feature? It was a sequel to Firefly which aired in 2002. It was not a success in theaters earning $25 million domestically (on a $39 million budget) but at least it's a good movie for a great series!

Another TV show that got a movie while still on the air. It was a huge hit in theaters grossing $183 million domestically.

SEX & THE CITY (2008)
A big hit in theaters with $152 million domestic / $415 global. The series had run for six seasons on HBO from 1998 through 2004. 

This continuation of the 11 season series (1995-2002) grossed only $20 million domestically but it was enough of a success by some measures to revive interest and the series came back to air in 2016 for two additional seasons.

The series ran for four seasons (2005-2007) and was critically well regarded with obsessive mans. Remember that awful trend where Hollywood appropriated and subverted the 'kickstarter' craze and had fans funding their projects instead of indies? We're glad that ended. The movie wasn't a success in theaters but it did revive interest and a fourth season arrived on Hulu earlier this year. 

Not every TV show needs a film. Especially the long-running ones. The 8 season series got a movie four years after its run but it wasn't a hit. The movie grossed $32 million in domestica release off of a $30 million budget. 

Aiming for big box office this weekend. Will you be there?

How many of those did you see? Surely we forgot a few so please throw in other examples if you can think of them. 

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Reader Comments (22)

Not including the 1998 X-Files movie?

September 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPoliVamp

Not the first example of a quickly cancelled series to get its own movie but maybe the only series with only one season to get a theatrical feature?

Surprisingly, no. I can think of a TV series that was cancelled after only 6 episodes, but later spawned an entire trilogy of films. Any takers?

September 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrevity

police squad/naked gun?

September 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterpar

@par: Quick and correct!

September 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrevity

Twin Peaks, South Park and Sex and the City. I'm off to see Downtown Abbey! Bye! (I'm happy)

September 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME is an absolute masterpiece, the only one of the batch. I am also a big fan of THE SIMPSONS MOVIE, SOUTH PARK and SEX & THE CITY. VERONICA MARS was good, too, for a super fan who wanted more of the series, but it was somewhat disjointed.

Other ones that include the original cast/creatives that I have a fondness for include SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS (hilarious), AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE COLON MOVIE FILM FOR THEATRES (surreal) and best of all SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE.

September 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

The X-files had a first feature film in 1998.

September 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterChatan

I've seen the first Star Trek (a bore but several of the sequels-2, 4 & 6-were good), Serenity and Sex and the City but those were the only series of these that I watched.

I will be seeing Downton Abbey.

September 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

This happens with anime a loooot.

September 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

Yeah, leaving out the first X-Files Movie is a great mistake. I loved it so much.
The second one…. a huge dissapointment, except for marvelous Gillian of course. I liked the last two Season of The X-Files though. (Rm9sbG93ZXJz is one of the best episodes ever!)
The Simpson movie was partly fun but overall meh.

September 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSonja


September 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMallinckrodt


September 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

The Simpsons Movie is the. Best. Episode. Ever.

September 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom G

Pokémon The First Movie! There's been a Pokémon movie every year since 1998. In fact that seems to be common in Japan, to have annual theatrical releases for their popular animated series. In fact, the 40th Doraemon movie is scheduled to be released next March!

September 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterajnrules

Fire Walk with Me is a film that I think is misunderstood upon its initial release and it didn't grab me the first time around yet re-watches ended up making me enjoy the film a lot more.

Entourage... I felt the show dropped the ball after its fifth season and things just got bad. The film I knew wasn't going to be good but man, I didn't expect it to be so revolting. It is the equivalent of Sex & the City 2. That's how bad it is.

September 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

I saw SEX AND THE CITY in Manhattan (I was failing college in Brooklyn at the time and friends were visiting) and it is one of my most memorable moviegoing experiences ever. It was completely sold out and the audience cheered louder every time a major character showed up for the first time (with Samantha getting the biggest reaction by far).

September 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

Fire Walk With Me is brilliant

September 20, 2019 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I saw eight and will see "Downtown Abbey"

September 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut could it be easily my choice to the Over & Overs series from this page.

Although I saw the Simpsons movie, I stopped being a fan since they changed to the original dubbing cast in Latin America (Humberto Vélez and company). Since then the stories are very weak.

September 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCésar Gaytán

The X-Files began in 1993, and Veronica Mars started in 2004. I’ve seen a handful of these, and most pale in comparison to their TV predecessors, which can only be expected. (TV and film as a medium are simply different, and, at least in the case of the Sex and the City movie, the film version was completely, narratively unnecessary.)

September 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Not a huge show, but the British spy series Spooks got a film last year starring Kit Harrington. Similarly, Absolutely Fabulous.

September 21, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterben1283

I liked the Munsters movie: "Muster Go Home"

September 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterScott O'Neill

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