Though the calendar just flipped over to April, the summer movie season is already upon us. This is the time of year the major film studios do their best business. Since they have to put their best foot forward, multiplexes are about to be filled with sequels, remakes, and adaptations of novels, comic books or television shows.
Forward to the Past
From now until the end of August, all six of the major film studios will be releasing multiple major films based on previously existing properties.
Disney has sequels to Guardians of the Galaxy and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Warner Bros will be releasing a new take on the legend of King Arthur, as well as a Wonder Woman movie.
Universal will be putting the eighth Fast and Furious and third Despicable Me films in theaters.
Sony has a new Smurfs movie and the highly anticipated Spider-Man reboot.
Finally, Paramount is hoping viewers will be receptive to an adaptation of 90s television show Baywatch and a fifth Transformers movie.
Of the twelve films listed above, only three are series originally created for film. The rest are books, comic books, television shows, a theme park ride, and a line of action figures. And that is only a sampling of what audiences will be treated to over the next five months.
Familiarity Breeds Cash
Are there no more original ideas? Or does it now take a familiarity with a known concept to entice audiences in large numbers to the multiplex?
The numbers say the answer to that second question may be yes. According to Box-Office Mojo, of the top twenty films at the box-office in this decade, only three of them were based on original screenplays. All three of those films are animated films aimed at the lucrative family audience.
With home theaters and streaming services chipping away at the box office, studios are trying to find ways to lure potential ticket buyers back to theaters. Thus far, giving big budgets to films based on already existing properties seems to be their most effective solution.
It’s Not As Bleak As It Seems
Hope is not lost, though. Taking another look at the box-office top twenty for this decade reveals that Hollywood is not completely out of ideas, they just desperately cling to the ones that work.
Though only three of the decade’s top films are not adaptations or sequels, six others are a part of a series originally created for film. This means that at some point someone came up with an original film idea, a studio decided to take a chance on it, and it paid off.
Only two of these series (Star Wars and Toy Story) debuted before this century. So original ideas do still exist in modern Hollywood. It only seems like they do not because studios take any successful ones and milk them dry.
This summer, there will be a few attempts at something original.
Warner Bros will try to cash in on the Will Ferrell-Amy Poehler casino comedy The House and Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic Dunkirk. Fox has the Amy Schumer comedy Snatched, while Sony tries to start a franchise with the (mostly original) animated The Emoji Movie.
Studio executives cannot be blamed for going back to what has worked in the past, but there is still hope for new ideas at the multiplex. Even if the best possibility for an original hit this summer features Patrick Stewart voicing a piece of poop.