In recent times, it has started to seem as if every other new movie release is a sequel, remake, retake or spin-off. Is this just age-related knowledge kicking in? Or is it a genuine new phenomena which has crept up on us largely by staying under the radar? Let’s look at the evidence:
Peering into the archives
A glance back to the past tells us that just rebooting the back catalogue has definitely not always been the default mode. In 1985, for instance, only one of the 10 most popular film releases (“Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”) turns out to be a sequel or a remake. Fast forward to the year 1995, and none out of the same ‘top 10’ category were anything but all-original, new releases. However, things had certainly started to change by the turn of the century. In 2005, only one film on the Top Ten list (“The 40 Year Old Virgin”) was not in some way based on a pre-existing movie, literary work, graphic novel or comic-book hero.
And just a brief glance at 2019’s scheduled new releases confirms that some of the very biggest movies are simply new takes on older franchises and films:
Jan – March: “The Lego Movie 2”, “Captain Marvel”, “Dumbo”
Apr – June: “Hellboy”, “Avengers: Endgame”, “Detective Pikachu”, “Aladdin”, “Godzilla: King of Monsters”, “Men in Black International”, “Toy Story 4”
Jul – Sept: “Spiderman: Far From Home”, “The Lion King”, “It: Chapter Two”, “The Angry birds Movie“
Oct – Dec: “Charlie’s Angels”, “Sonic the Hedgehog”, “Frozen 2”, “Star Was: Episode 9”.
A lazy trend?
Just like movie lovers, TV fans also appear to be suffering the same entertainment media trend towards retreads of every description. Hollywood’s over-reliance on repackaging its tried-and-trusted formulas is well known and much-criticised. So it’s not unusual to hear fans complaining loud and long about such perceived failings: ‘horrible remakes’, ‘destroying classic movies’, ‘the film was disrespectful towards the original version’ and more.
Nevertheless, it is also pointed out that the majority of those who complain are still prepared to buy cinema tickets and DVDs or select streaming options just to get the chance to view the latest rehashed version of a movie they claim to detest. But, to get film-makers to change their ways, wouldn’t it actually be a better strategy for movie fans not to spend their money? After all, while people keep buying the products, it’s hard to blame the movie industry alone for making infinite sequels and continuing to roll these popular titles off the production line.
Sequels have always been a thing, even in the online casino world. You’ve surely noticed some of our slot games are sequels, such as the popular Thunderstruck II. And while so many movie and gaming sequels are loved by their audience, it’s also worth asking if there’s really such a thing as “too many sequels”?
Thus, whilst it’s interesting to consider just why the large film companies stick to this ‘rebranding’ model, it’s also worth looking at why we are all prepared to put up with endless remakes and sequels with so few works which offer something new and original.
What motivates film industry behaviour?
Firstly, it’s important to accept that film companies are businesses like any other, and must make profits to survive. And many experts think that the temptation for film-makers to behave this way is partly that, instead of risking millions of dollars on original productions, it’s a fairly risk-free strategy to revisit works which have enjoyed past success. And in addition, film companies have long understood that they own the intellectual property (IP) rights to a vast store of old material. IP can be scripts, storylines, characters, franchises and much more which, with a little thought, can be remonetized many times over.
The feeling is that the public are already aware of these brands, and know the storylines and characters, so something which has proved a hit with one generation may work again if it is formulated in a way which is reassuringly familiar. It’s also clear that the endorsement of one (older) generation can also act as a motivator for younger filmgoers – especially if the industry is smart enough to play up the effect of modernising technologies. It’s as if the nostalgic factor of the old “Lion King” movie alone wasn’t enough, creating a sense that, to be truly authentic, today’s children desperately need everything to be rendered in 3D.
Beyond a sense of the familiar, there’s not a great deal more required to transform ‘rebooted IP’ into a critically acclaimed and/or financially successful box-office hit. Just add some high-profile stars, a fresh angle on the work, or perhaps even just a fun celebration of the genre. Nostalgia often seems the primary ingredient. So with movies and prime-time TV, we may all make a lot of public noise about the same old menus, but the audience ratings tell the real story: behind closed doors, we’re mostly very comfortable with what we know.
It’s important to say too that not every reprise is a commercial success, so the job still has to be done well. In the industry they talk about the critical “second weekend”, meaning that a big advertising budget can buy your production a successful opening weekend, but you just can’t “buy” the second weekend – it’s got to be the real deal!