How the Sequel and Remake Culture Has Come to Dominate Hollywood

By Anna Davies

Remakes, reboots and sequels have been a Hollywood staple for most of the film industry’s history. Some of Hollywood’s most acclaimed films were actually remakes including classics like Scarface, Sent of a Woman, and The Departed. Yet in the past decade, as cinema attendances have dropped, studios are becoming more dependent on the increased likelihood of returns that remakes, reboots and sequels offer.

As of August 31, Den of Geek report that were 121 remakes currently in the works, either in production or waiting to be green lit. This ranges from classics such as Hitchcock’s The Birds to previous box office and critical disasters like Dungeons and Dragons. Even directors who are revered as some of the most groundbreaking storytellers in the industry are returning to past franchises. Ridley Scott has revisited the Alien series twice while James Cameron will return to produce Terminator 6.

One of the main reasons for the large volume of sequels and remakes is that they are easy for studios to market. There is, in most cases, already a market and brand recognition that comes with the film. A good example of this is the upcoming Hellboy remake which will be released next year. The first Hellboy, directed by Guillermo de Toro, struggled to find an audience despite being well received by critics as the character wasn’t well known outside of fans of the comic. The 2018 reboot in comparison will be able to build on the public awareness of de Toro’s two films. For film studios this takes half the battle out of promoting a new film.

It also allows companies who are associated with the media to reboot their products. Slingo who have several slot games dedicated to the superhero genre recently added a new Hellboy title to coincide with the rebooted film which joins other games such as a Terminator 2 slot and Dark Knight Rises game. Players are more likely to play a game based on a character they know than an original character. If the Hellboy game had been released at the same time as the first Hellboy film, there would not be the same recognition. As both the film and gaming industry rely on building strong audience awareness, it is clear why remakes and sequels mean big business for both.

Original stories are struggling to find an audience in the crowded schedule of remakes and sequels. In his post Is ‘Originality Overrated’, Gareth S. Young wrote that of the fifty biggest films of all time 70% of them were sequels. With the exception of Christopher Nolan (who achieved mainstream success through rebooting the Batman franchise) very few directors have the clout to make big budget original films. Many directors are now turning to digital streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime to make original films. David Ayer publicly declared that Netflix offered much more creative freedom while promoting his Netflix original film Bright. The streaming platform gave him $90 million to put his vision on the screen.

Already, a divide is happening where cinema equals tent pole/sequel/remake and the internet and TV equals originality. If this does become the case it will be a huge blow to watching original films on the big screen. Cinema is the natural home of original storytelling and it should stay that way.

One thought on “How the Sequel and Remake Culture Has Come to Dominate Hollywood”

  1. I’m trying to think of a remake that I liked better than the original, even with great performances such as the Patrick Stewart-Glenn Close “The Lion In Winter.” It’s not working. I hope nobody ever touches “The African Queen”.

    Liked by 1 person

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