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… )