Column: Another remake? Witness the death of Hollywood originality


Cristina Lombardo

The reliance on remakes has left many moviegoers wishing for more originality.

by Hailey Doolittle, Contributor

Everyone is familiar with the feeling you get when the screen fades to black and your favorite movie ends. When a story really pulls you in, walking out of the theater feels like waking up from a dream. There’s a feeling of emptiness and solace knowing no matter how great the experience was, you can never relive it again. It’s bittersweet.

However, what if I told you every time you rewatch that movie, you could maintain the same initial experience. You become reconnected to the characters, abiding their journey once again with the curiosity of how it all ends. Every plot twist or jump scare feels brand new, almost as if you have traveled back in time. 

Doesn’t seem possible does it? Well, that’s because it’s not. But for some reason Hollywood hasn’t figured that out yet.

For the past two decades, Hollywood has been reusing the same material over and over again in hopes of reigniting cinema classics, and thus we have forcefully entered a repetitive age of remakes. Very seldom do we see audiences advocating for remakes of their favorite films, in fact it’s usually the exact opposite. According to an analysis conducted by the website Casumo in 2019,  “audiences rate 91% of originals more highly than the remake.” Critics shared a similar opposition to remakes as “87% of original movies are preferred by critics to their remakes,” according to the study.

So why does Hollywood keep insisting on producing remakes? While there may not be a definitive answer, several key factors contribute, the most important being profit. When a story has already established itself, there is likely to be a core following who will see the remake solely because they are familiar with the original. When a production company makes a film, it is looking for a return on its investment. Since remakes appeal to a broader demographic and are typically more profitable, studios ride off the coattails of Hollywood classics for a quick cash grab.

Remakes are also much easier to market as they already have an established brand. Fans can instantly recognize the Batman logo or the “Star Wars” theme song, therefore this notion of nostalgia is often stressed in their marketing strategy. Although most viewers agree the original was better, this innate sense of nostalgia consistently attracts the masses. With shows like “Stranger Things,” “Friends,” and “The Office” frequently topping the charts on streaming services, nostalgia has been proven to be a formula for success. Studios find investing into a brand-heavy film a much safer choice for revenue, whether it’s executed well or not. Original ideas are pitched every day but studios reject them for this reason. This recipe is yet to fail so both networks and audiences oblige. 

When discussing the appeal for remakes one must acknowledge that networks hold huge amounts of intellectual property (IP) which includes any character, franchise or script owned by a studio or production company. These IPs make it very easy for studios to fund remakes, and since Hollywood is scared to take risks, they follow the safe choice. The rights to IPs don’t last forever though, so studios will try to capitalize on that property for as long as possible, resulting in a repetitive loop. 

An article on Docs Drive-In Theatre writes “In a last-ditch effort to make money on an intellectual property license, studios sometimes pour limited resources into direct-to-video sequels and reboots.”

While it does seem most remakes fail to deliver, there are times when the formula for a remake is something to be celebrated. Some fans just can’t get enough of their favorite films and characters so when certain classics grow outdated, a revitalization with higher production quality is called for. A great example of this was in 2018 when Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga starred in the classic “A Star is Born.” Although this was the film’s fourth remake, the movie was an immense success amongst fans and critics earning eight Academy Award nominations and a win for Best Original Song. Fans were excited to see the newest adaptation with new music, new actors and a modern flare proving that sometimes it’s necessary to bring back old stories with new tricks. 

Some remakes even beat their original successors and lose the cursed title of remake amongst the general public. Some notable mentions include 1998’s “The Parent Trap” with Lindsay Lohan or the star-studded rendition of “Oceans Eleven” in 2001. 

While the topic of remakes in Hollywood can be quite stressful, it is undoubtedly one of the most successful cheat codes the industry has ever developed. Whether you love the idea of Timothee Chalamet in “Little Women” or dread the thought of Addison Rae in “He’s All That,” it is undeniable that remakes garner widespread recognition. According to the website IMDB, there are going to be 125 movie remakes released between the years 2018 and 2022, showing this trend is not stopping. 

Originality is not completely dead in Hollywood but it is certainly being overshadowed. As long as these movies are still profitable Hollywood will continue to follow the money, and eventually the idea of originality will become a great mantra few believe in.