Why all the remakes?

Discussed this last night with a friend, would love to hear Doper opinions.

We were pondering what influenced this current trend of making new versions of old movies, or new movies of old TV shows. Bewitched, Herbie - Fully Loaded, House Of Wax, King Kong (the third version), The Birds, The Dukes of Hazzard and War Of The Worlds are just a few that are in theaters, production, or planning at this time. Why has Hollywood suddenly decided that every movie in the history of mankind must be remade? Are screenwriters running out of story ideas? Or, as my friend suggested, are producers playing it safe, recycling a story that has already proven its allure? Or is it the actors - “The kids nowadays don’t know who Fay Wray is; let’s do King Kong again and cast Naomi Watts”?

Hollywood suddenly decided this? That’s news.

It seems like at least 20% of the movies produced in the last 20 years have been remakes or TV shows. It’s hardly sudden.

It seemed like this hit its peak in the early 90s when it was hard to even find a movie that wasn’t a recycled TV show, a sequel or a remake. If anything it’s slackened off over the last few years.

I agree, auRa. There are too many remakes.

I think it’s a little of each of the reasons you mentioned, and here’s why I think that: filmmaking has changed.

People go to school nowadays to learn how to make films. They are taught about story elements, set design, editing techniques, the interplay of music and sound with visual images, etc., etc… and then they need a job. Producers have a huge labor force/talent pool that knows the rudiments of filmmaking and/or story-telling.

The problem is, knowledge isn’t the same as creativity. So when a knowledgable but non-creative person tries something totally new, chances are good that their product will be mediocre.

On the other hand, if the same person remakes something that already has a good foundation, they can hardly go wrong. Heck, I bet you could make a compelling version of Sleuth with any 2 friends and a home camcorder. It’s a great story, great dialogue… all you need are 2 people who won’t completely flub the lines.

I also think, yes, it’s a sort of a perverted vanity thing. At least, that’s the best I can come up with for why Tim Burton is trying to destroy the memories of so much cool stuff that I (and he) grew up with. Or why Paris Hilton did her flick. Or why Gus Van Zandt did Psycho in a shot-for-freaking-shot remake.

For me, a remake would be cool only if the first film was a good idea that hadn’t been done justice yet. Like Flesh Gordon or something.

I’m gonna do my part, tho. I’m not paying to see any remakes in the theatre, nor will I buy the DVD. If the remakes don’t make money, producers will begin to see them as less of a safe bet. (note: I am not holding my breath. As the man said, no one ever went broke… )

I forget where, but I read recently an interesting take on this subject. Whoever it was claimed that so many scripts have been written and published these days that’s it’s virtually impossible to write a new, unique story without getting sued by someone or other who will claim that you’ve ripped off the script they’ve been nurturing along for decades. So the solution is to buy up the rights to previously existing titles and milk them for all they’re worth.

I don’t know how accurate or even plausible that is, but it’s an interesting idea.

I’m not buying the “no new stories” story.

Humans have been creating fiction prolly since the first tale of the hunt (or at least since the first tale of the fish). But not every story is the same.

I think we may be seeing an analogue to my theory about film school churning out knowledgable but non-creative types tho.

Could it be that we are producing more people than ever who know how to use Movie Magic Screenwriter, but who should never have been allowed to?

Come to think of it, that might very well be the case. Maybe I’ve just become more aware of it over the past few months and now it seems like I’m being bombarded with New And Improved movies from every corner. Still, the question that remains is why are remakes so much more lucrative than coming up with something novel?

Oh, boy - rubbing hands together gleefully - my first time to ever say

After a quick Google , I found only a few remakes made in the first 3 years of the 90s:

1990: Lord of the Flies, (if comics count) Dick Tracy and (if cartoons count)the Jetsons Movie.

1991: The Addams Family, Beauty and the Beast and Hook (which isn’t really a remake as much as inspired by).

1992: Tom and Jerry: The Movie, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Twin Peaks-Fire Walk With Me, Of Mice and Men, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and A Muppet Christmas Carol.

So, I’m just wondering what you’re thinking of, since I’m not really invested enough to look any further into the filmography of the 90s.

Aaaaaaaand, I just reread what I meant to preview, dammit, and I realized you cited sequels, which I didn’t count and were, indeed, plentiful. So I hosed up my first callout for a cite. Way to go, dumbass…

Oh, yeah, and most of these remakes suck, but have their moments. Good for a rainy afternoon rental, I guess.

There’s always The Beverly Hillbillies, Car 54 Where are you?, McHales Navy, Josie and the Pussycats, The Brady Bunch movies (which are actually very funny), Scooby Doo and sequel, Cheaper by the Dozen, Psycho, and so and so and so forth.

Part of it is because a lot of these remakes (particularly the tv shows) appeal to people who grew up with these shows and have fond memories. It’s viewed as a built in audience. Same kind of a thing with movies. Just put a different twist on it to appeal to a "younger and hipper :rolleyes: " audience and there ya go.

It can be good. As I said, the Brady Bunch movies are hilarious. They put a really sort of naughty spin on it and it worked. The new King Kong movie also looks good, but I think that is because Peter Jackson has a true reverence for the material. He was a huge fan of the original and was disappointed in all of the remakes. That’s why he is doing it.

Of course, after the LotR series Peter Jackson could do a remake of the remake of McHale’s Navy and I would go see it.

The producers say it’s all about brand-name. Making a sequel of a profitable movie means you’re using that profitable movie name to bring back customers. Sure, it may not turn a mediocre movie into a blockbuster. But it may bring in a few more folks than if the story and characters were “Original.” Likewise, remaking a famous old movie means that you can leech off of the fame of an established, profitable product (ie, free advertising). It’s the same thinking that creates the phrases “From the makers of…” and “By the award-winning director of…” The studios are hoping that people will think, “Hey, the first movie was good. so the let’s go see the sequel.”

The main reason has little to do with creativity. It’s marketing.

Years ago, when you created a new product, you gave it a new name. Nowadays, however, manufacturers are much more likely to link a product name to an existing name. For example, years ago, Coca Cola created a diet soda and called it “Tab.” Now, when they come up with a new diet soda, it’s “Coca-Cola Zero.” By sticking with the “Coca-Cola” name, they make marketing it much easier; people see it and already know something about it.

It’s the same with movies. If you use a recognizable name or franchise, people know something about it even before you start shooting. Invariably, there will be articles about it – free publicity. People will discuss and denounce it on message boards – more free publicity.

Think about it – you see much more press coverage of sequels and remakes, almost from the day they’re announced. Everyone here knows about the King Kong remake, for instance. How many non-remakes that are scheduled to be released at the same time do you know about?

As for sequels, Hollywood knows that any sequel is guaranteed to make x% of the gross of the original film. All you have to do it keep that in mind with your budgeting and you’re golden. There is a law of diminishing returns (look at the Batman series), so the series will end eventually, but if the franchise still retains its name value, it’ll revive (see Batman, again).

Hollywood did the same thing almost from the beginning with books. They have some of the advantages (especially a best-seller), but nowadays fewer people read books, so TV or other movies are more effective.

Realitychuck, I’m glad I said it first, because you said it better.

[nitpick] TP: FWWM isn’t a remake. It’s a prequel to the TV series.

Remaking movies is hardly a new phenomenon. The idea’s been around pretty much since the beginning of filmmaking. Just to throw out a few examples, Stella Dallas was filmed in 1925 and remade in 1937 (and again in 1990 as Stella). Ben-Hur was done in 1907, 1925, 1959 and 2003. There are a dozen or more versions of The Picture of Dorian Gray dating back to 1913. And so on.

Oh please. If you want to watch the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or Planet of the Apes, you can rent them from Blockbuster or buy them from Amazon.com. They’re still available. Burton isn’t destroying any memories or old movies with his remakes – he was obviously inspired by them enough to want to put his own spin on them, but that doesn’t mean he gathered up every DVD copy of the originals and burned them in the process, leaving only his versions. I think it was Stephen King who, when people asked how he felt about Hollywood destroying all of his stories with the movie adaptations, he pointed to his bookshelf and said “They haven’t destroyed anything; they’re right here, safe and sound.”

Man, if you grew up watching flicks like Paris Hilton’s, I don’t know if I should feel sad for you or jealous of you.

Are you talking about the porn?


Not necessarily those two examples, since the originals are fairly iconic, (and not like I can pull any examples off the top of my head) but I am of the opinion that in some cases a remake reduces the availability of the original, particularly if the remake is very successful. Whether that can be laid entirely at he feet of the remake or whether it’s the “people won’t generally watch old movies” mentality I don’t know.

I’d say more of the latter. But I never saw the original Michael Caine *Italian Job * on DVD until the remake came out, and now you can pick it up for $6 at most places. It’s depressing how many more people have seen the new one (even moreso in the case of Van Sant’s Psycho versus Hitchcock’s), but I’ve found that remakes actually make the originals become more popular and more available, at least for the short time following them. Generally, I just think modern mainstream audiences don’t like watching movies older than the mid-'70s.

Mr. Burton is a sore point for me: I can’t stand the guy’s movies. If he’s gonna make bad movies, he could at least try and make bad movies about new things rather than remake movies badly. But that’s just me.

Re: Paris Hilton: I said “her flick” as in House Of Wax, not “her lick”. :smiley:

Actually, the original Italian Job was a very bad movie. And, I’d really question whether more people have seen Van Sant’s remake of Psycho than the original.