The Same Old Story

Reboots and remakes take over the film industry

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Illustration by Thovatey Tep
Illustration by Thovatey Tep

Sequels, prequels, reboots and spin-offs — from “Ghostbusters” to “Beauty and the Beast,” media franchises are at the forefront of the entertainment industry. Of the 10 top grossing films of 2016, eight of them were adaptions or reboots and there are currently 43 sequels, reboots and remakes scheduled to be released in 2017 according to UPROXX.

“The reason Hollywood remakes stuff it already made or adapts things like comic books and novels is because they feel like it’s a sure bet,” said UC Santa Cruz film and digital media professor Natasha V. “[Hollywood] is very risk-averse. They don’t want to put millions of dollars into a movie and then have it lose money.”

Moving into 2017, the trend of recycling pre-existing stories, whether they be an adaptation from a book to the screen or from an animated Disney film to computer generated imagery (CGI) live action movie, will continue.

“From the studio angle, the reason is easy to see — they’re able to market a property that already has a built-in audience, which is why you see so many biopics, adaptations, and the like,” said senior executive of Script Pipeline, Matt Misetich in an email.

While money may be the draw for reboots for those in the entertainment industry, for the audience, “a lot of it is nostalgia,” Misetich said. “Audiences enjoy having a certain comfort zone. In some cases, there were popular films or series from the past that hit upon themes relevant today.”

Disney originally released “Beauty and the Beast” in 1991 and it was the third highest grossing film of the year. Disney is remaking the film into a live action movie that will premiere in March. It will include many of the same songs and characters from the original animated film, making it recognizable to audiences.

The trailers highlight the advanced animation technology of the era showing clips of the Beast and other CGI characters and live actors such as Emma Watson, who plays lead character Belle.

A relatively new technology, CGI allows for a photo realistic immersion into a fantastical story creating a new experience for the audience. 3D CGI was first developed in the ’70s. Since then it has transformed to capture motion and capture realistic facial features.

Reboots, however, CGI filled or not, do not guarantee success. The remake of “Ghostbusters,” which hit the box office in the summer of 2016, was considered a major flop with a $70 million loss according to Forbes Magazine. The film had a $144 million production cost largely due to the high cost of special effects.

For student screenwriters or artists in the film and digital media industry who aim to produce original stories, this means shifting toward the independent sector of the industry.

“Theatrical films are almost strictly limited to reboots and remakes and adaptations,” said senior executive of Script Pipeline, Matt Misetich in an email. “Original content is pushed to smaller theaters and the digital players like Netflix [and] Hulu.”

With the amount of remakes in the industry trending upward, the job market for screenwriters searching to produce their own original stories is going down in Hollywood, while the market for multimedia artists and animators is going up. Fewer new stories are getting picked up by big producers, leaving little room for writers in Hollywood.

“Every filmmaker has the fear of getting to Hollywood and everyone else being better than them and it is competitive,” said fourth-year film production student Mason Dodson. “However, when you pay attention right now to the indie film market and everything that’s going on in the independent scene, it’s blowing up.”

And while the independent movie industry and media streaming sites don’t necessarily receive the same household recognition or bring in as much revenue as major blockbuster films, UCSC professor Natasha V. said  they allow for more artistic freedom and expression compared to the Hollywood blockbuster.

“It may not be successful in Hollywood terms,” Natasha V. said. “But Hollywood is not an artist.”