AMC's The Walking Dead is entering its ninth season next month and the spinoff series Fear the Walking Dead is about to finish its fourth, but if you think that means that the hugely popular zombie series is tapped out, think again. The Walking Dead is the crown jewel of AMC Network's properties, and as such it wants to keep the zombie and money trains rolling for years to come. One way that the company intends to keep the zombies alive is by producing multiple new movies based on the property over the next few years.
AMC Networks Inc. sees The Walking Dead as having the potential to continue on as a many-tentacled franchise, like Star Wars or Star Trek. To do that, AMC is planning on producing multiple new movies and TV shows based on Robert Kirkman's graphic novels to keep the property going and making money for another decade. The plan, which is still being worked out, is to make several movies for either a TV network or a streaming service, with the hope being that they could then spin those movies off into new series, acting as backdoor pilots essentially. According to Bloomberg, AMC has had talks with multiple large media companies to help finance the projects, which all together could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Former showrunner of The Walking Dead, Scott Gimple, was named Chief Content Officer for the two current AMC shows, and he is overseeing the development of these extensions of the franchise. Beyond the zombie through-line and drawing from the graphic novels, it is not clear what these movies and spinoff series would be about, but it was mentioned that one series (and presumably the movie that launches it) would be set in another country overseas.
The Walking Dead is AMC's most important show, not only because of its popularity, but because unlike beloved shows Mad Men and Breaking Bad, AMC actually owns the series and thus doesn't have to share any revenue. So it makes sense that AMC wants to keep that gravy train, and those ad dollars rolling. Even though the flagship show, The Walking Dead, has declined in viewership in recent years, from a high of 19 million nightly viewers in 2015 to 11 million for season eight, it is still one of the most watched shows on TV.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. If these movies are made with TV instead of theatrical distribution in mind, I've got to think they will get more shine on a streaming service than the AMC cable channel. On a streaming service they won't be interrupted by commercials or be hemmed in by a TV rating. Creatively it should also be interesting because if these movies are acting as backdoor pilots, there is a question of whether they will be narratively satisfying when the intent is really to sell you on finding out more in a TV series. I'm also curious if the declining interest in The Walking Dead show has to do with that show's creative decline or if it extends outward to any zombie property adjacent to it. Zombies are merely a device, but will The Walking Dead brand be a blessing or a curse by the time these movies reanimate?