August 25, 2013

Hollywood Remakes

This isn’t so much a rant about Hollywood remakes as it is about the recurring idea that sequels, remakes, and adaptations are some awful, overwhelming blight that’s taken over Hollywood in the past few years.  Humphrey Bogart’s version of The Maltese Falcon was a remake of an adaptation.  So was John Carpenter’s The Thing.  Casino Royale was a remake, too.  Dracula is the most filmed fictional character in history.  Seriously.  How many remakes or adaptations are we talking about there?

Don’t get me wrong–there are some God-awful remakes out there. Nightmarishly bad ones.  But there’s a lot of God-awful original films, too.  And, hard as it may be to believe, they’re the majority.

Hollywood studios released just shy of 200 films in 2011.  I believe the exact number is 194, but I might be off by two or three (that’s based off Box Office Mojo‘s records, if you care).  This number does not include micro-releases that only played for a limited number of screenings or foreign films brought over by independent distributors.  If we were all inclusive, the number of films at the box office last year is closer to five hundred.

2011 had more sequels released than any other year to date.  There were 28–about one out of every seven films (14.2%) if we stick to that smaller number of studio releases.

If we’re extremely generous with the term “remake” (counting, for example, Captain America: The First Avenger  as a remake of the low-budget 1990 film and Rise of the Planet of the Apes as a remake of the old Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) , 2011 had 13 remakes.  Not even one in ten of the smaller studio number (6.66%, actually).  And before anyone asks, there are overlaps between the remakes and sequels.

Which means, conservatively, that 80% of the films released in 2011 were original or based off new, never-before-filmed material.  Probably a little more than that.  Definitely more if we use all the numbers and not just the studio releases.  This isn’t opinion, remember–these are cold, hard facts.  You can go to Boxoffice Mojo or The Numbers or even just IMDb, count up releases, and you’ll get the same results.

I think what drives people nuts is that over the past ten years or so the average person has access to tons of news and information about the internal workings of Hollywood.  But the film industry is a very weird business.  There is nothing else like it and nothing to compare it to (from many, many folks, the closest comparison is life in the military).  Having access to all that internal information doesn’t mean someone can understand Hollywood any more than having access to all the internal organs in someone’s torso can make you a heart surgeon.

So, anyway, people hear about movies going into development, don’t understand what that means, and assume these films are going to happen now.  In film terms, going into development means… nothing. Absolutely nothing. Dozens of remakes, reboots, sequels, and original scripts are considered for development every day because that’s how development people keep their jobs. They get nine or ten projects “in the works” and about 95% of them fizzle out and die. Some of them are remakes, a bigger bunch of them are original. But the vast majority of them don’t come out. This is business as usual. Disney has had all of their sixties and seventies live movies in development as remakes or reboots for over a decade now. We’ve seen one make it out– Race To Witch Mountain. One in over ten years.

It’s not really a problem.

Just saying…

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