Seen that movie before? Hollywood likes it that way

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It's "groundhog day" at the multiplex, where the sense of deja vu pervades with remakes such as "Herbie: Fully Loaded," "War of the Worlds," and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

Yes, Hollywood has long repeated itself, but perhaps never have so many recycled ideas been in the pipeline. Still to come this year are "Bad News Bears," the big-screen version of TV series "The Dukes of Hazzard," "Fun with Dick and Jane" and "King Kong." Further out are remakes of "Poseidon Adventure," "Porky's," "Swiss Family Robinson," "The Warriors" and comedy "Oh, God!" with Ellen DeGeneres possibly stepping into the George Burns role.

The releases come despite mounting evidence that these films don't always make financial sense and, with box-office numbers about 10% lower this summer than last, industry watchers are wondering whether the retreads will produce further backlash from moviegoers.

So why risk it? Remakes, whether they're based on a classic yesteryear movie or a more contemporary one, have built-in awareness among audiences that makes them easier to market. If the young moviegoers that Hollywood caters to most don't know the original material, it's somewhere in the consciousness. Even when those audiences aren't familiar with the source, there's another plus: it gives studios more latitude on how to reimagine the story.

Moreover, as studios have become part of massive entertainment conglomerates, their executives have tended to be more risk-averse and bottom-line oriented. Remakes are seen as a safer bet, even though the misses are as plentiful as the hits.


"It's a trade-off," said Terry Press, head of marketing at DreamWorks. "Originals are harder to market-you have to do all the heavy lifting. Studios feel better when they have a title people recognize, but that doesn't mean people want to see it."

"People aren't against recycling so much as what's being recycled," said Brandon Gray, president of tracking service Box Office Mojo. "A recycled `Batman' gets a thumbs up, but a recycled `Honeymooners' doesn't. It's not only a lack of original material, but it's a lack of compelling, exciting stories."

Moreover, the lukewarm response this summer to an original film such as Universal Pictures' "Cinderella Man" could give studio executives more justification to pursue remakes, industry watchers said.

Looking to movies of the past for inspiration isn't much different than making a film based on books like "Harry Potter," said Oren Aviv, president-marketing at Walt Disney Co.'s Buena Vista Pictures. "It's only a bad idea to remake a property if the movie turns out to be bad."

Some remakes have a strong afterlife. Sony's "The Grudge," which made $183.4 million at the box office, raked in $84 million in DVD rentals and sales. Warner Bros.' "Ocean's Twelve," technically a sequel to a remake, pulled in $362.7 million in worldwide box office and another $100 million in DVD sales and rentals. "Ocean's Eleven" took in $450.7 million at the box office.

Recently there's been a mixed bag of remake results. Paramount's "The Honeymooners" made only $12.4 million in a month. Modest success "Herbie" took in $48 million, while Sony's "Bewitched" has made $50 million, well under its estimated production budget.

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