It has happened to all of us. As we sit in a movie theater, eagerly anticipating the movie, the ads are rolling, and every single one of them is a for a remake or a reboot of another film.
Hollywood is hooked on remakes and reboots. Right now we are set to get a reboot of the “Ocean’s Eleven” franchise, a new “Jumanji” will hit theaters this summer and “Beauty and the Beast” will premier in a few weeks.
It is not just the movies that are experiencing that trend but television as well. A “Dallas” reboot has come and gone, a sequel to “24” kicked off after the Super Bowl and ABC is set to debut a remake of “Dirty Dancing” in May.
Why is Hollywood obsessed with remakes and reboots? One theory blames streaming services like Netflix for making classics available in droves, inspiring desire for classics to be regenerated. Another suggests that writers are simply running out of good ideas.
Nick Marx, an assistant professor in the communication studies department and professor of the evaluating contemporary television class, however, believes it is due to something else.
“In general the surge in reboots is coming from media industries’ hedging their bets,” Marx said. Studios are creating this content under the premonition that they know it will work as opposed to taking risks on new ideas, Marx said
Studios are “fairly conservative,” said Scott Diffrient, an associate professor in the film studies department. Remakes also come from audiences wanting content in a world they already know. Viewers are drawn to pictures in which the world-building has already been done, which also explains why studios are so eager to produce sequels in addition to remakes, Diffrient said.
“[Remakes] have been a predominant feature of Hollywood since the beginning,” Diffrient said. There are actually fewer remakes being produced than there were in the 1930s and 1940s, so if you’re frustrated now imagine visiting a theater then, Diffrient said.
“Reboots, remakes and spin-offs have long been with us. They’ve just never been as valuable as they are today,” Marx said.
Some are afraid that remakes spell a lack of creativity in Hollywood.
“[I] don’t think they spell the doom that so many people say but rather movies and television shows that struggle are the ones that aren’t overly thoughtful in their productions,” Marx said.
“Remakes showcase the potential of cinema in what it hadn’t been showcased before,” Diffrient said. Movies are remade because they’re “culturally worthy” of retelling, and rarely are they made to kill off the original film, he said.
Remakes can revisit subjects that were unthinkable in previous years and comment on the current culture.
“Remakes broach subjects that were taboo years earlier,” Diffrient said, referencing the most recent version of “The Magnificent Seven” and its racially diverse cast. When the original was made in 1960 it would have been practically impossible for the film to feature as many actors of color as the 2016 version does, inviting audiences to “partake in the narrative,” Diffrient said.
Remakes are a big fixture in Hollywood but will that always be the case? Some, including Diffrient, predict a rise in “transmedia reboots” in which movies are remade and adapted into television series or stage productions.
“There’s a frivolous, I think, debate among film and television critics about how the former medium is dying creatively and that all the good stories are migrating over to television,” Marx said.
Whether or not that is true one thing is certain: remakes are here to stay, so get comfy!