Anyone that has been keeping track with mainstream movie news, will know that there is a new version of an already existing franchise or film being released every other month. I even surveyed multiple people, and 84% were aware of this.
This brings up discussions of whether Hollywood are out of ideas, and are relying on the safe path of familiarity to fill the producer’s wallets. At the same time, it brings up interest in the relaunch of said popular brand, whether it’d be from the already existing fan base, or the newcomers who have only just heard about the brand. Regardless the modern movie industry has fallen into the habit of relaunching an already popular film or brand; with numerous remakes of popular films already in the works. In March this year, cinema goers had the choice of Kong: Skull Island (the third King Kong reboot) a remake of Beauty and the Beast by Disney, or the live action version of Ghost in the Shell. So what’s the harm? Well before we ask that, we need to know the other important question, what’s the reason for this?
Well firstly there’s the obvious reason of money. And said money being made through different means, mainly franchises. With a lot of projects being made to set up multiple sequels to be produced, after said film is released and hopefully makes a splash at the box office. Due to the success of Marvel Cinematic Universe by Disney – with the Avengers sealing that franchise’s success back in 2012 – many studios from Warner Brothers, Fox Studios and Sony Pictures have been trying to launch their own attempts of cinematic universe like franchises with multiple sequels and giving multiple characters’ spin offs and cross overs; with properties such Spider-man, X-Men, DC Comics and Ghostbusters being planned and already put in action, all of which are released with further projects in the pipe line. Hence why many of the remakes/ reboots released are of well-known properties that are loved by their fans, and have already been financially successful in the past. Because as the old saying goes: if works once, it’ll work again and again. Spider-Man is a good example of this, as Peter Parker is on this second reboot at Marvel Studios. Since 2002 Sony Pictures had made millions on the Spider-Man trilogy with Toby Maguire as the star, with his final putting earning a worldwide gross of $890 million. However due to numerous disagreements with director Sam Rami, the studio and Maguire himself; the franchise had ended, with Sony starting the franchise again with a new crew and cast in The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012 which earned around $262 million. You can see why Disney was keen to make deals with Sony for the character rights, the sequel under performed; making Disney’s version (as seen in Captain America Civil War) the third big screen version of Spider-Man. With Sony planning to produce a spin off for Venom, a popular characters from the comics.
Hell this works for sequels as well, if there are two things Hollywood loves most, is money and familiarity. Hence why a lot of films that make bank at the box office earn sequels, whether they need/ require them or not. Why? Because the predecessor established an audience that gave the their money to see it in theatres, and buy the DVDs. So the logic goes: is that said audience will spend more money on a continuation of something they enjoyed once before. Anyone who knows about the workings of studios, will know that they’ll not put anything in production, unless they know it’ll get asses in seats. But with sequels, BOOM! Audience already established, so put this shit on our release schedule and give the team all our money!
However, there is one other source of money from a big budget reboot of an established brand, merchandising. With the studios making deals with manufactures to make products to generate hype for said rebooted brand. If someone loves a film to the point that they have a shelf solely for the merchandise, then a new version will get said person to by the new products. Whether it’d be: t-shirts, special edition DVDs with hours of bonus features, dress up items, and action figures with almost perfect likenesses to the character they’re meant to portray. Companies such as Hasbro, Mattel, Neca, Lego and Side Show Collectibles have profited heavily on this. As Mark Litwak said on the matter of movie merchandising, it’s a second form of advertisement:
“If McDonalds agrees to distribute millions of Roger Rabbit cups to its customers, and spend additional millions of dollars to advertise the promotion, the movie benefits from increased audience awareness. For distributors, promotional campaigns are often the most alluring aspect of a product placement deal”. Litwak M, 2013 ‘Movie Merchandising’.
And his not wrong about the allure of merchandising, especially when aiming to audiences of families, children included; with it also aiming towards adult collectors. With successful franchises such as Star Wars –with products by Kenner and Hasbro – making over $37 billion over the last 40 years before the release of The Force Awakens, the push for merchandising in shops and geek events such as Comic Con makes more sense. Especially when a CNBC article by Javier E. David says that the Comic Con event in San Diego brings in $700 million during the three days of the events.
So while yes, the established geek market is the key market to hit, as many of them will be aware of the relaunched franchise; there is still more demographics to reach. The first is young people, mainly because they would be having the most disposable income, and would be more keen to see a big popcorn blockbuster than a slower drama piece. I say this as films such as Total Recall, Robocop and Poltergeist were well-respected films with hard R ratings (or 15 in the UK) only to be rebooted as PG-13 (12A in the UK) that meaning anyone around that age range could pay to see the film. The second audience to aim for, being everyone else. Because if a franchise is going to be re-established to the worldwide public, the more audiences viewing the better. It draws attention to something they might not have been aware of beforehand, and if they’re a fan of something in a similar genre; then they may like this. And I do mean the world wide public, going back to Robocop and Total Recall, by the US box office both of them under performed. As both of them struggled to make more than $60 million in the US. When it comes to the world wide audiences: Robocop (2014) made $139 million, while Total recall made $184 million. And these are only two examples in a recurring trend, as Robert Schovo says in his video ‘Too Many Hollywood Reboots? Here’s why’; countries like China only take a small amount of English speaking films to put them in wide release across the country, and as Robert says:
“They’re (cinema distributors) going to go with something that doesn’t get lost in translation. If you ever wondered why the Fast and the Furious movies are so huge – it’s because: men drive car fast, works in any language.” Schovo R, 2016. ‘Too Many Hollywood Reboots? Here’s why’!
Hence why so many examples like this are big expensive action films with explosion filled, exciting, money shots for the trailers; instead of some deep heart-felt rom-com. While (insert franchise here) maybe new to someone else, even if they’ve heard good things about the original from a guy who knows a guy, who knows a guy’s cousin whose seen it. Which also explains the remakes of multiple foreign films such as Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Ring.
Now, we need to ask the important question; what is the effect of Hollywood and the movie industry? Well for one thing the is that there are loads of remakes of well-known films still being produced, with sources stating that between 107 and 116 remakes are in various stages of production by various studios. Which shocked the participants in my survey, as 80% were unaware of this. But also Hollywood has fallen into the habit of making films in order to kick starter a franchise using popular characters, in the attempts of building a cinematic universe with sequels, spin offs and crossovers in the vain of making the same money Marvel did with the Avengers. Regardless of the quality of the output, studios will pour money into blockbusters with massive special effects, using recognizable characters. Which will be seen all other the place in terms advertisement: i.e. movie screens, movie news and the internet etc.
But does it work for the studios? Yes, and no. I mean it has worked for Marvel’s Cinematic Universe due positive word of mouth, and even Warner Brothers’ DC franchise has managed to turn a profit due to successful marketing campaigns. But for the rest of the market, I can be a hit or miss venture. Because all the money in the world being spent on trailers and action figures can’t prevent a film sinking due to one crucial element that can grantee a film success in the world of fandoms and the internet, positive word of mouth. Whether it’d be from the critics on sites such as Rotten Tomatoes, and the responses from audiences. The 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters is a good example, while the film rated well in terms of critical reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, when it came the audience scores, it was rated the lowest rated film within the franchise. I bring this up as the film failed at the box-office only making $128 million at the US box office on a budget of $145 million, with the film failing to break even. And what’s not helping is that smaller productions are given less attention due to being released days or so after a highly anticipated/ advertised film has hit theatres.
For example, a Will Smith drama from 2015 called: Concussion; only made a total amount of $48 million, in a world where movies are expected to make double their profits, that’s bad enough. But do you know what has released a week before: Star Wars the Force Awakens. That being said, the Indie/ Independent side of the film industry has gained large amounts of attention and influence. With events such as the Sun Dance film festival giving multiple indie productions more attention. Films like Drive and Troll Hunter being good examples of films starting at similar events and earning cult followings in the process. Even directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson being directors that started on their own and working their way to fame with their own ideas or ones that haven’t been tried yet. With the former having two of his films (Inglorious Bastards and J’Dango Unchained) being nominated for best pictures at the Oscars. This brings a balance between what is being released in cinemas; especially when films like Room and Whiplash end up topping the box office charts when given the attention.
So is this good or bad? Honestly it’s both, as despite it being 50/50 on the quality of the output on the Hollywood reboot craze; it will get new people into franchises they probably wouldn’t have known/ cared about. And of course, actors, writers, producers, manufactures, etc. will have money to put food on the table. Even if we the audiences, will have to put up with the repetition.