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Will Prequels, Sequels, and Remakes Kill the Movie Industry?
The Power of the Sequel
It's another year but don't be surprised if you see even more of the same material. It's that seemingly endless parade of more sequels, another prequel, and of course another 1980s classic movie remake. Will it ever end and what power do those unoriginal ideas have?
Apparently they have more power than we're led to believe at least in terms of the box office numbers. The genre that benefits the most from this is the superhero or action genre. This genre has lately established a complete rule over the numbers.
Despite unoriginal ideas at times and a slew of uninteresting characters, the millions if not billions of dollars drawn worldwide has been nothing short of incredible.
It is clear that spin-offs and more prequels and sequels will continue to be made in those genres because their box office archives guarantee their creation. However, with comic book characters in particular, there is a distinction whether they are truly prequels, sequels, or remakes.
Often the movies that are created based upon those heroic characters gather their material from the comics themselves, which would be similar to movies based off of books or novels.
If we limit what a true prequel or sequel is then the power generated by the numbers will start to diminish substantially. So as I explore this idea further, I'll be more specific in what defines a sequel and find out if they still have control in Hollywood.
This means that I'll skip over discussing low rated yet inexplicably gratuitous money making machines like the Transformers franchise.
Defining a Prequel or Sequel
To begin, it's important to define what a prequel or sequel really is. I consider a prequel or sequel to be based off a movie created from an original idea. This means that any movies that are based off of books, comic books, and film shorts would not qualify.
So recently popular books like the Harry Potter franchise, the Hunger Games, and even the Twilight series that have been turned into movies wouldn't qualify in this discussion. Even if the books are dreadful the subsequent movies that are based off them do not qualify.
What about original movie trilogies like Star Wars?
Technically movie trilogies do fit into this discussion because they are sequels or prequels based on an original idea. Unless the movie trilogy is based off a book series like The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit then they are considered to be prequels or sequels. This matters greatly because the inclusion of such iconic trilogies does strengthen the argument for more sequels and trilogies.
However once we begin to explore those along with other ideas further you'll start to see how Hollywood may be slowly unraveling.
Making Money vs. Critical Acclaim
I'm criticizing the movie industry because I believe there are way too many unoriginal ideas. I also don't agree with turning every successful original movie into a prequel or sequel. At times it seems like there are no more new ideas out there. However if this was the case, then award ceremonies like the Golden Globes and the Oscars wouldn't exist because those accolades are primarily reserved for new ingenious creations.
Unfortunately it's often the case where the most critically acclaimed movies do not reach the audience or make as much money as the more critiqued movies. Why is this the case? It's easier to sell an audience on a movie they've already seen and enjoyed. It's far more challenging to sell them on an idea they're unfamiliar with and that's unproven. This is why a lot of those critically acclaimed movies have limited releases until the audience begins to warm up to them.
Going further there's also a big difference between critical acclaim and receiving accolades from things such as the academy. Big budget blockbusters can be critically acclaimed such as Avatar or more recently Godzilla but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll receive special awards. They are more likely to garner accolades/awards in sound or special effects, but they'll likely escape the major categories such as best actor/actress, best director, and best picture.
This means that there are actually three categories movies fit into; those that make money, those receiving critical acclaim, and those receiving awards. Which of those categories is the most important for the movie industry? The obvious choice is the money making category. The amount of money a movie makes gives the industry its power and continues to drive their success. If we keep that in mind we can see why prequels, sequels, and remakes hold a special place in the movie industry's hearts.
How Much Power Does a True Sequel Have?
After deciphering what a sequel means, we can finally begin to figure out if they are ruining Hollywood. A sequel or prequel's power varies and is strictly dependent on how good the next movie really is. Does it offer something new to the audience, is it as good as the original, or is it even better than the original? A successful sequel will manage to be at least as good or even better than the original, and those movies are a rare breed.
There are only a few movies I would consider to be as good or even better than the original and many of them have already been featured in numerous top ten lists of prequels, sequels, or remakes. There are more movies that would be characterized to be good or almost as good as the original, but a good majority of the sequels and prequels I'd consider to be in the not as good to downright awful group.
It's that majority group that often garner harsh criticism and generate poor box office numbers. This is not always the case and there have been plenty of not so good sequels that have actually done well in the financial department. This is primarily due to their connection to the original, hit movie. That connection is very important to filmmakers and production companies because it's something they can always lean on when they know the movie will be of low quality/substance.
There will continue to be significant variations in how unoriginal movies are perceived, but money will always drive sequels and prequels. It doesn't matter how low rated a movie is as long as the production value is low and the money generated is considered to be fairly successful. The genre that probably benefits the most from this is horror. The horror genre has probably generated the most sequels, prequels, and especially remakes out of all the other genres.
Low Quality, Low Production, No Problem
Nothing makes the industry happier than a movie that takes costs low but takes in millions of dollars. The horror genre often has movies with an unusually low budget and if an original horror movie becomes a hit, then they can score immensely.
One of the lowest budget horror movies, The Blair Witch Project, was created on a meager budget of under 1 million with some sources claiming it be as low as under $50,000 when first produced, and it has grossed over 200 million dollars worldwide.
More recently the Paranormal Activity franchise has scored a similar feat. The amount of financial success those two movies generated meant that there would be a plethora of sequels and prequels to be made.
For the Blair Witch Project, its sequel was a failure and further sequels based on the original were axed, but the Paranormal Activity franchise had multiple prequels and sequels that continued to be financially successful despite bad ratings.
Those examples represent the disconnect between the quality and the money movies make. The industry doesn't care if the movies are low rated as long as they generate profit and unless that stops we'll continue to see copies of original movies.
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The State of the Movie Industry
There are currently no worries regarding sequels, prequels, and remakes because they will continue to generate money despite often receiving bad ratings. Occasionally there will be huge box office bombs, but they'll balance those out with surprise, financial hits.
Even if the bad eventually outweighs the good, comic book movies will always provide the numbers the studios require. There is so much material available from comics that I doubt they'll run out of ideas anytime soon with that genre.
I think there are much bigger problems for the industry than the content produced. The repercussions from what happened with The Interview could slowly eat away at the numbers and rising movie ticket prices will gradually push moviegoers away. Other issues include the rise of streaming movies at home due to convenience and low costs.
The movie theaters are trying to keep up with reconstructing the theaters themselves, the chairs we sit on, allowing easier ways to purchase tickets at the theater and online, giving away specials and deals on tickets and refreshments, offering food and drink services during the movie, and emphasizing 3-D and IMAX viewing for the best theater experience.
I do feel that eventually the way we view movies will change the same way we used to view bookstores, libraries, and currently TV viewing. With the introduction of streaming services and always growing new technologies for our convenience, the movie industry will have to retool the way they show us their movies.
Despite all of these potential changes there still exists a magic when we go to a movie theater. It's the smell of popcorn, it's watching the movie on the big screen, it's that collective laughter or fear we share with our fellow moviegoers, and we can't replicate that charm when streaming a movie onto a laptop.
Will the movie industry ever be annihilated by anything? That question is hard to answer, but it seems unlikely and it certainly won't be due to a lack of originality. There will always be new material out there and fantastic movies to enjoy. This past year has offered some brilliant, original ideas and they will continue to do so.
The fear of annihilation, if it ever happens, will be through other means but by then we might have a new Hollywood with creative ideas that come from us. As long as we continue to crave entertainment, then movies will never go away and the movie industry will not meet a slow death.