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The Idea Behind Making Movie Remakes

Hollywood loves pumping out movie remakes (and reboots), but the general public is divided over the onslaught of old series being given fresh makeovers. Not all remakes are created equally, and some bomb horribly at the box office, such as the 2016 adaptation of Ben-Hur, which was considered one of the biggest flops of 2016. Other remakes and reboots go onto stellar success, like Stephen King’s It and It Chapter Two.

There is also a distinction to be made between remakes and reboots. A movie remake is in some cases an almost shot-for-shot recreation of a movie title, updated for modern times. For example, 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven is a remake of the 1960s version. Martin Scorses’ The Departed is an almost exact shot-for-shot replica of 2002 Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs. In other words, remakes generally follow the source material pretty closely.

Reboots, on the other hand, are when the writers discard most of the chronology and existing continuity in a series and start over completely from fresh. We’ve seen this in most of the Spider-Man and other Marvel hero movies throughout the past decade.

International Demand

There are several reasons for Hollywood putting out so many remakes and reboots. For starters, there is a global, international demand for them – while American audiences may be weary of endless Transformers and Fast / Furious sequels, the international market gobbles them up, for whatever reason.

2014’s remake of RoboCop, for example, grossed only $58.6 million USD in the U.S. and Canada, according to Box Office Mojo, but earned $184 million overseas. Much of that came from China, which showed the film in 3D cinemas, and grossed $20.5 million USD during its opening weekend.

Film Rights and Licenses

Secondly, licensing also plays a major part, particularly in panic situations. To use the example of Spider-Man and other Marvel heroes, the studios who produce those films can lose their licenses (to the characters) if they aren’t actively producing movies. If Sony doesn’t keep producing Spider-Man films, the rights can transfer back to Marvel, who can then create Spider-Man movies with Disney.

Putting out sequels and remakes to keep licenses is nothing new, and sometimes, it’s had disastrous results. For example, 1994’s Interview with a Vampire, based on the popular Anne Rice novel and starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, received numerous awards and Oscar nominations. Warner Bros. held the rights to produce films for several Anne Rice novels, but those rights would expire in 2000. In a panic to produce a sequel to Interview before Warner Bros’ licenses expired, they scraped together the critically-panned Queen of the Damned, which garnered a 17% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 130 reviews.

It’s simply easier and proven

The final thought process behind Hollywood remakes is that it’s simply easy and a proven formula. Let’s say you have the choice between a new, unknown brand of soda, or a Coke (and all of Coke’s flavors). Well, you know, a good majority of us might actually be tempted to try the unknown soda, but Coke has a proven track record, so that’s what movie producers would probably choose.

In this way, film studios are hesitant to invest in new ideas, characters, and concepts. There may be a billion Spider-Man movies, but hey, Spider-Man sells. It’s really as simple as that.


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