Reboots, Remakes and Sequels - Are they really a problem for Hollywood?
Lewis Gibson - 26 May 2023, 13:30 Share
Last year, a new set photo was released of Timothee Chalamet as Willy Wonka in the upcoming Charlie and the Chocolate Factory prequel. The picture didn’t show very much, but the comments on Twitter led to the same old sentences: “Hollywood doesn’t make anything original anymore!”, “Hollywood is out of ideas!”, “All we get are sequels and remakes!”
Complaints like these have been raised time and time again, and yet every year, almost without fail, the highest-grossing films are either sequels in existing franchises, remakes, or reboots. So, what’s going on? Are we really that tired of these recognisable brands as the critics say? Well, numbers don’t lie, and it seems there is a clear and valid reason for the regurgitation of known properties. However, the real question here is: Have the Hollywood studios, or any studio for that matter, ran out of original ideas?
In short- no.
This may come as a shock, but Hollywood is actually producing more original films than at any other point in history. On the surface, this may seem unlikely. Everywhere you go you’ll see a familiar title on a bus, or the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe instalment advertised on YouTube and there is a simple reason as to why we believe that’s all there is - money. Studios know what properties are recognised and what sells, and so place all their golden eggs into one basket at a time. One of the most glaring examples of this marketing overload has been The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Throughout March and April, Mario’s face was everywhere, perhaps making people believe that’s all that was playing in the theatres. Yet, every week there are brand new and original films released. However, due to their limited budgets and unfamiliar titles, they lack the sort of marketing entitlement that a Mario Movie would receive.
It is comparable to the news cycle. There are hundreds of news stories written each day and the information is all published for us to read, but very seldom do we dive in to them all. It is all about the main headlines, the talking points, and what stories grab the average person’s attention. It is the same for film. The public consciousness moves so fast that what catches the eye tends to be what we already know. It’s not that those original films aren’t being made; we are just not privy to them as they are overshadowed by the bigger productions.
The struggle of Independent Movies
Independent films can also be extremely difficult to sell. These films tend to lack a big star and don’t have grand and flashy set pieces that can be shown in a trailer. Some can be too high a concept or unusual that it does not appeal to popular demographics – such as young adults and families - and so studios won’t invest in big marketing campaigns for stranger or understated projects. The pandemic may have also led to an increased strain on original films. Yet, even those original ideas that garner near-universal acclaim, like the best picture winner, Everything Everywhere All at Once, only gained about 140 million dollars worldwide. Even the globally mocked Morbius, starring Jared Leto, made more than that simply due to that Marvel logo.
It is a shame, because the past year alone has had some truly remarkable and original films. The Northman was a bold, brutal and transportive fantasy fable with some astounding visuals. Colin Farrell led two thoughtful, funny, and touching films in The Banshees of Inisherin and After Yang. Even the Tik Tok favourite, The Menu, could not crack 80 million dollars, being mostly watched on Disney+ after its theatrical run.
For these films to find an audience the onus turns to us. Due to the sheer amount of film releases both in cinema and on streaming, there is only so much marketing space for the prime releases, and it now becomes our responsibility to track down these original releases and for most people that is too much of an inconvenience.
The problem isn’t that there are too many rehashed ideas, on the contrary, we are overwhelmed for choice. We are at a point now where there is such a constant stream of entertainment being given to us on multiple platforms every week that we cannot possibly be aware of everything that is being released or what will specifically interest us. All the big-budget sequels, reboots and remakes you see marketed are just a drop in the vast ocean of cinematic releases. There is such a sheer saturation of all types of entertainment that every week we will be missing a film, book, album or TV show that we may love…but will pass us by without us ever knowing about it. Who knew an article about film properties could get so dour? But, at the end of the day, what you want is out there, you may just have to work for it.