For recent generations of Americans (who grew up in the time when mass media marketing had become deeply ingrained into youth culture), childhood nostalgia often comes in the form of TV shows and movies. Millennials and members of Gen Z remember what it was like to purchase dolls and action figures of our favorite movie characters, to wear clothes and buy food items with these characters on them, and to sing the theme songs of children’s TV shows and soundtracks of Disney movies. We see pubescent teenagers with affinities for a certain video game or movie trilogy or television series and think, “That’s just like how I was obsessed with ____!” Today, this nostalgia is being manipulated by the film industry more prominently and more often than ever before.
In the early 2010’s, the blockbuster film industry discovered the key to roping in viewers and pulling in revenue the likes of which have never been seen: long-awaited sequels and remakes. Think about it: how often have you stumbled upon a trailer or advertisement for a remake, follow up, or spin off of one of your most beloved childhood shows and thought “Well I HAVE to go see that! That was my entire childhood! “? 2016 saw a Ghostbusters remake, a Harry Potter side story, a Star Wars side story, a live-action Jungle Book remake, the sequel to Finding Nemo, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland, and a live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles remake, just to name a few. The people who adored these stories as children and teenagers were more than disposed to pay $8 and relive their adolescence for an hour or two. And though these CGI-laden blockbusters require a bigger budget, the revenue typically catches up to it; there has been a generally steady increase in annual box office ticket sales since 2014. The trust that movie producers and distributors will still see profits in spite of large budgets rests in the hands of the exploitation of nostalgia and viewers’ desire to see continuations of previously popular films, along with the rising cost of movie tickets and innovations in theater commodities.
The economic success of these films only added to Hollywood’s remake fever, and 2018 may see the burst of this bubble. Among the list of blockbuster movies with a set 2018 release date are a Robin Hood remake, a Slender Man movie adaption, a Star Wars Han Solo spin off, a Transformers Bumblebee spin off, a sequel to The Incredibles, a Barbie movie adaption, another Scooby Doo movie, another Goosebumps movie, a Halloween remake, another live action Jungle Book movie, a live action Mulan remake, an animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas remake, a Mary Poppins remake, a live action Aquaman movie, a live action Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie, and many more.
So how will copious amounts of remakes and sequels contribute to the implosion of the international blockbuster? It works like this: there are 52 weeks in a year, and as of right now, movie distributors have planned to release at least 40 “tent-pole” films (films that are largely responsible for the economic success of movie studios) in 2018. This causes overcrowding: there are nearly 20 blockbuster films that are being released one week apart from another blockbuster film, meaning Film A only has one week to pull in as much revenue as it can before it becomes overshadowed by Film B. Frankly, too many movies are being released with too little people willing to go to the movies and actually spend money on them.
And so we watch as Hollywood’s attempt to reel us in with unoriginal, monotonous remakes and sequels disguised as childhood nostalgia films collapses in on itself. Playing on nostalgia isn’t necessarily immoral, but it is detrimental to the creative state of Hollywood. Remakes and sequels acquire big budgets and accumulate even bigger profit, while independent film makers and original screenwriters struggle to scrape by on small budgets or are entirely rejected by studios. Monoliths like Disney already have enough money as it is, and the movie industry has a serious problem with distribution of wealth. Time and time again, independent directors and writers have shown that both original works and screen adaptions of little-known works can not only be successful on a low budget but can also hold true to the art of cinema (Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight and its three Academy Awards exemplify this, being made on a budget of $1.5 million and pulling in a domestic total of $27,696,170 since its October 2016 release.) Perhaps it’s time to let them have the spotlight.
In all honesty, it is pretty fun to relive a part of your childhood with modern day updates, and to see younger kids watch one of your favorite movies for the first time in their lives. Unfortunately, we must also recognize that much of Hollywood has evolved from an artistic business into a money hungry monster. As long as viewers keep paying for remakes, studios will continue to churn them out.
2018 may either surprise us by being one of the most successful years for the movie industry, or by being the year it crumbles completely. Either way, Hollywood needs a revolution.