27 Sep 2011

Remakes and sequels

I say good evening but what a joy it is to be writing this after 7PM and still see blue sky. Even more stunning is that it's in Wellington!

Enough of that.  Some of the most common complaints I hear are:

"Did you eat the last biscuit?"
"Oh no not another French produced Japanese rendition of a Shakespearean play!"
"Why are you sleeping in my garden?"
"Hey! He said I had more time? I can get the money! Please let my nose out of the garlic crusher"

And of course “why are there so many remakes and sequels out at the movies?”

And the answer is simple. Money!

Movies cost more and more every year. Millions in fact.  Here are some stats:

The Help, (2011)  estimated budget 25,000,000
The God Father II (1974) estimated budget 13,000,000
Transformers III (2011) estimated budget $195,000,000
Conan the Barbarian (1982) estimated budget $20,000,000
Conan the Barbarian (2011) estimated budget $70,000,000*

Interesting tidbit the original Conan made twice as much profit as the remakes entire gross (estimated). 

Before anyone starts arguing about the cost of movies now as opposed to back in the dark ages of the 80's, my point is that movies cost millions to make. And in the case of Conan, the remake cost over three times as much to make and less in gross profit. And the original will still be making money out of nostalgic DVD and blue ray sales.

Yes movies are expensive, and in Hollywood studios careers are made and destroyed with the choices people make.  There are a lot of original ideas out there, but are they a viable product? Will they sell?

Zombieland (2009) was meant to be a pilot for a TV series but didn't sell to the TV networks,  so they managed to get it off the ground as a movie. At $23 million it was a cheap film to make. It had a good script and it had Woody Harrelson. 

Some once told me that trying to get a movie made was like firing an arrow through a series of rings in a dark tunnel. Miss one of those rings and it's over. So star power, whether it be actors or directors, can make a movie happen. Which is why established "stars" command large salaries.

But this doesn't explain why in October we can look forward to three remakes and two sequels.  The answer to that is simple. Remakes cater to a new audience with an established product, redesigned for a modern market. Sequels feed on the success of an established product: demand and supply. 

Take Transformers for example. There was a Transformers movie made in 1986, it featured the voices of Orson Welles and Leonard Nimoy! But  it was also a highly successful toy, and cartoon series. There was an established market in existence. And with an (estimated) budget of $151,000,000 US to spend on the latest in special effects and a young woman called Megan Fox,

 Paramount pictures had a recipe for success. Apparently $706,471,251 (worldwide) reasons for success. Transformers II made $800,000,000, and III made $351,331,987. I guess Michael Bay should have stuck with Megan?

Basic economics dictate to the heads of the major studios. They are not against original ideas; Zombieland and Inception,for example. but new ideas equal risks unknown .

The Fall (2006) which has a rating of 7.9 at IMDB made estimated gross of $3,669,465, a tiny amount for a film. Layer Cake (2004) had an estimated budget of only $4,000,000, but at the box office only made an estimated $2.3 million. Layer Cake made up a lot more in DVD sales and rentals over time. These are both good movies earning peanuts whereas the re release of the Lion King in 3D has made over $30 million alone in the US since opening in September. 

You may think that I am being simplistic. And you are right, because it is that simple. Annoying but true.

This is the reason we can look forward to The Amazing Spiderman, Battleship, The US version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Sherlock Holmes sequel, the next Chipmunks sequel, The next Mission Impossible sequel, and the next Underworld sequel.
Oh well at least I have Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy to look forward to.... oh feck!
* All estimates taken from IMBD


  1. Firstly, don't be rude about Wellington. You love it, you know it and you live here. So :p

    Secondly, they keep going until they spend more than they make is that what you're saying? So annoying, why not just leave it when you they get to the top. Sex and the City 1 = great. Sex and the City 2 = terrible. They should have stopped at 1. They have ruined the franchise that was built with just one stupid sequel. But I guess they made money, so yay for them. Stink for us.

    Thirdly, I'm not opposed to a good, well thought out sequel that was made for the benefit of the story and not purely for the money. I do appreciate a good story above all else.

  2. So basically remakes and sequels make money especially if they have Megan Fox in them is what you're saying

  3. Plus sequels are less risks than new franchises because they have already been tested on the market - usually recently.

  4. Remakes can be made for lots of reasons apart for "the first was a success so let's remake it for more cash". Consider these two entirely unrelated examples:

    Lord of the Rings. After 3 or 4 people had tried to make a movie of the books, Peter Jackson finally succeeded with a winner. You could view his epic movie as a remake of the other ones.

    King Kong. After 3 or 4 remakes of the fantastic original, Peter Jackson wanted to do it again because he loved the original. Your call if it was a box office success or not.