The biggest movies of the new millennium have all been sequels! Every time you look at whats playing in the theater, all you see are sequels and remakes! What happened to telling original stories? If you find yourself asking this question, I have some bad news for you. It’s probably your fault.
It’s all of our faults! I heard someone say recently that movie studios are basically just specialty banks, giving out loans, but only for people who want to make movies. If you know anything about banking, it is that they make decisions based on fear, because they are afraid of losing their money. So when it comes time to see if they should give out a loan for a film, they are going to be paying attention to the highest “Return on Investment” that they can get. Where else can you find it, than looking at the patterns of recent history.
The following are the top 10 grossing sequels in America from January 1, 2000 to the day of this writing, February 23, 2018:
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens – 936.66M
- Jurassic World – 652.27M
- The Avengers – 623.36M
- The Dark Knight – 534.86M
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi – 532.18M
- Rogue One – 532.18M
- Finding Dory – 486.3M
- Avengers: Age of Ultron – 459.01M
- The Dark Knight Rises – 448.14M
- Shrek 2 – 436.47M
That is what people, audience members like yourself, are paying to go see. Of course they are! We saw the first one at some point, either on Netflix, or DVD (or even on TNT, they love playing movies). So when the sequel comes out, we know that we like the idea, and are ready to spend our hard earned money. But what about that gamble? What about going to see an original movie?
- Avatar – 760.51M
- Spider-Man – 403.71M
- Frozen – 400.74M
- Finding Nemo – 380.84M
- The Passion of the Christ – 370.78M
- The Secret Life of Pets – 368.38M
- Deadpool – 363.07M
- Inside Out – 356.46M
- American Sniper – 350.13M
- Zootopia – 341.27M
Want to see how that compares?
Even Star Wars: The Force Awakens made more domestically than Avatar, the film that James Cameron used to break a record that he already had, highest grossing film of all time! Avatar is still the highest grossing around the world, but The Force Awakens is the highest in the U.S., you know, where the movies are made, and studios directly care about.
Also, take another look at the chart up there, Shrek 2 made more money than the first Tobey Maguire Spider-Man. Just let that sink in. Also also, five of those ten movies on the originals list are kids movies, Frozen, The Secret Life of Pets, come on. Where is Baby Driver? Where is Dunkirk?
What about that middle ground? Not a sequel, but not quite an original? The great American remake!
- Beauty and the Beast – 504.01M
- Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – 381.05M
- The Jungle Book – 364M
- Alice in Wonderland – 334.19M
- It – 327.48M
- Man of Steel – 291.05M
- The Amazing Spider-Man – 262.03M
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas – 260.04
- Star Trek – 257.73M
- Maleficent – 241.41M
Alright, so people really don’t like remakes, but when they pay for sequels, but then tweet about how they want original movies, the studio is going to keep pumping remakes out, trying to find that middle ground between the Finance Department and the PR Department.
So what am I trying to say? If you want more original films, go see them! In theaters! Netflix doesn’t release their viewing numbers to anyone, so you seeing that original movie A Futile and Stupid Gesture on there, will not help foster a culture of Hollywood making more great original stories for you to watch. The power is in your hands, as the consumer, to decide what you will support with your money.
This newspaper cartoon is made for a political context, but works just as well for the movie industry.
If someone like a movie studio, or even politician, is doing something you don’t like, often times they are only able to continue because people are supporting them. So make sure that you are not one of those people.
Now I know what you are thinking, “I wish I could, but I can’t afford to go see every movie that comes out, so when it comes to a choice between a quirky romantic comedy starring Kumail Nanjiani and his real world wife Emily V. Gordon, or Transformers: The Last Knight, a movie where I know what I’m getting and I know there will be cool cars and explosions, I’m going to go with the safe bet.”
I’m not judging you for making that choice. It is a safer bet. But you just aren’t allowed to be upset that other people are making the same choice as you, and as a result, there aren’t a lot of big original stories coming out. The studios listen not to what you say, but what you do.
What are some things you can do to combat this? There are a few options. For one, you could wait on the big blockbusters. You know you aren’t going to miss them, and it’s not like Disney needs your money to keep pumping out these films. So wait until it comes out on Redbox or Netflix to see Ant-Man and the Wasp. In the meantime you can see and support something smaller that needs every ticket holder it can get. Or, if you really want to go see those movies on the big screen, there is a new thing called MoviePass, where you pay a small monthly fee, for unlimited movies. There are even starting to be competitors to this subscription model for theater movie watching. (Edit: Don’t do MoviePass)
The point is, you have the power to choose what is the next set of films that will be produced. You vote with your dollars. So will you vote for Fast and Furious 9, or will you vote for a small budget indie that is trying to tell a story.