Even if you only watch a handful of movies each year, you have no doubt noticed that there are a lot of sequels. And remakes. And prequels. And reboots. What was old is now new. Constantly.
The concept of Hollywood going back to the well is not new, but the number of times is now unprecedented. Movies are more expensive than ever and so are marketing costs, so the major companies are looking to recreate past successes, rather than taking the financial risks involved in creating new ones. It’s a strategy that has paid off to some extent in the past, but this year’s numbers are not encouraging.
Superhero movies continue to deliver, but other franchises are definitely showing their age. Hollywood has increasingly relied on foreign box office to make up the shortfall when domestic audiences don’t care. Even that tactic cannot be relied on anymore, if TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT is any indication. Following a substantial opening weekend in China, the Michael Bay movie plummeted 74% in weekend two and another 75% in weekend three. Coupled with the reduced percentage Hollywood gets from that territory’s box office take (a measly 25%), these lower numbers will not make the difference.
Also, the marketplace is incredibly crowded. Big movies used to open almost exclusively during the summer and at Christmas. Now they bow almost every weekend and are frequently crowding each other out. A movie used to have a few weeks to perform; many now are lucky to have one, so those first three days had better be huge.
Ironically, two of the year’s most successful releases had a combined budget of $13.5 million. Universal’s horror thrillers SPLIT and GET OUT got solid critical response and each grossed over $100 million in the domestic market alone. The answer seems simple: less money, more creativity. But will Hollywood listen?