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Overseas profit, franchise fans reasons for constant movie remakes

April 5, 2018

It seems to be a trend in the cinema these days.  From Jurassic Park to Star Wars, older movies are getting updates and new additions. Some might call this a lack of creativity on the writers’ part. Still others may embrace these films with open arms, thinking back on better times. Whatever the movie-goer’s opinion on these remakes, it must be true that someone felt that the originals were good enough to be redone. 

The question still stands whether or not remaking such classic movies was a good idea. Box office statistics would make it seem that the remakes are even more popular than the originals. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle earned nearly 200% more in the box office than the 1995 Robin Williams movie. Star Wars: The Last Jedi brought in $600 million compared to the $300 million Star Wars: A New Hope earned in 1977.  

As far as moviegoer ratings, it would also seem that the new movies are better received by the audience. The 1995 Jumanji movie has 51% on Rotten Tomatoes. Meanwhile, the 2017 Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle movie got 76%. Of course, there are other factors that could contribute to this increase in earnings and ratings and a lot of the money these movies earn comes from overseas markets. 

“Obviously movies do do well here,” said Diana Martinez, the education director at Film Streams. “[but] one of the things that has happened in the film industry in the last few years is that you’re just getting less product … some people would say that audiences are bored with what they’re seeing.” 

This repetition is the big problem in the American film industry, but other countries eat it up. If you live in China and don’t speak English, it’s a lot easier to watch American sequels with the same set of characters than an all new movie; you already know who Captain America and Iron Man are, so that next Avengers movie is going to be easier to follow.  

This is the big reason there are so many sequels; it makes sense to appeal to audiences overseas that make up most of your profit. The thing is that in America the film industry is very profit-oriented. Any movie that will make a huge profit will get made. Films like Star Wars and The Avengers have built up huge followings over the years and these fans will go see the new movie regardless of the plot or quality. Of course, even Star Wars had a first movie off of which to build their fan base. “There’s a reason why presales for Black Panther have been through the roof,” Martinez said, “And you will bet … on it that there’s going to be five more Black Panther movies … because Hollywood’s going to follow the money.” 

Other countries have national film boards. These organizations give money to producing film as an art form. Because of this, studios in other countries are incentivized to produce films without the focus of making a big profit. America does not have a film board. 

Most studios are also held by parent companies and own the rights to certain franchises. Sometimes this creates very popular products; Disney owns Marvel and Star Wars so they can make all the movies, TV shows and merchandise they want without having to pay for the rights, all the while advertising these movies on Disney Channel, even if it’s the wrong demographic. Other times, this leads studios to try and reproduce movies that didn’t do so well the first time; in 2001, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie made only $115 million, but the company still owns the rights, so they’re trying to remake it better. 

The American Hollywood ideal of film has shifted from hard-hitting art to profit-forming cyclic sequels. It doesn’t change the fact that we are still the template other countries’ film industries go off of. Bollywood is just the same, sequels and lengthy series’ in the name of profit. Regardless, many readers will go to a movie theater and see Avengers: Infinity War and enjoy it just as much as if they went to Film Streams and saw Phantom Thread. 

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