Movies – Reduce, Remake, Recycle

So, I went to see “Zombieland”, and if you haven’t gone to see it, and you love zombies, you need to. Attached was the trailer to the “Nightmare on Elm Street” remake. God bless Jackie Earle Haley; the man needs a paycheck and he’s about to become a trivia question. But aside from that, I didn’t see much of interest, aside from that ridiculous shot of Freddy unzipping his jacket (see the trailer, you’ll see what I mean). And the online buzz seems to agree with me.

The main questions people ask is “Why can’t Hollywood come up with any good movies?” and “Why does Hollywood constantly remake good movies?” The short answer is: money. The long answer is: production costs and marketing difficulties.

Getting a movie to stand out these days is rough. Attendance at the movies is up, but historically speaking it’s been dropping. So have DVD revenues as wallets get emptier and Netflix and Redbox become vastly more appealling. This means two things: one, the cheaper your movie, the more chance you have of making money and two, if it’s a title people recognize, so much the better. A Hollywood studio just spent eight figures on an Astro Boy movie gambling you might be ever so slightly more inclined to go see it because you’ve heard of said anally-fixated robot.

And there’s no movie that comes cheaper and reliably makes money like a horror movie. Just look at last weekend’s justified winner, “Zombieland”. It cost about $24 million to produce and it made $25 million in one weekend. It’s on track to make $70-$80 million in the US alone, and the studio gets half of that, meaning they’re walking away with $15 million in their pocket before the rest of the world so much as buys a ticket. Then there’s DVD, VOD, pay-per-view, basic cable…”Zombieland” is going to turn Columbia Pictures a tidy, tidy little profit.

But that movie’s good. Let’s look at a horror movie franchise that sucks ass: “Saw V”. The “Saw” franchise has seen pretty consistent profit drops as it gets older, and sure enough, “Saw V” was the lowest grossing of the franchise yet, making $56 million.

Then again, it only cost $10 million to produce, and it made $30 million opening weekend. To give you an idea of what that means, “Saw V” could have opened Friday morning, closed Sunday night at midnight, and it would have made money. This is why “Saw VI” will be hitting theaters. Odds are pretty good we’ll have to get up to “Saw IX” or “Saw X” before the franchise dies in theaters…and then starts stamping out straight-to-video incarnations. We haven’t even gotten into home video yet. As popular as horror movies are in theaters, they do gangbusters on home video, which is why your friendly neighborhood video store had racks and racks of horror flicks that had never seen theaters.

So, Hollywood has considerable motivation to make horror movies: they’re cheap and they make money, even when they suck. Nothing’s foolproof in Hollywood, but horror movies will always be with us.

Add to this the appeal of remakes. It doesn’t matter how obscure the subject matter is; if somebody, somewhere, has heard about it, Hollywood wants to remake it, because as far as they’re concerned, it’s a presold market. You liked the old one! Come see the new one!

This logic is, frankly, a hell of a lot more questionable, as remakes seem to be hit-or-miss. Take “Sorority Row”, a recent remake of “The House on Sorority Row”. For a slasher movie, it got OK reviews. But the distributor, Summit Entertainment (you know them better as “The Guys Who Distribute That Damn Twilight Franchise”), just did not have the marketing muscle to make it a hit. Even so, it made $11 million on a $12 million budget, so it’ll make its money back on DVD. Then again, nobody aside from horror nerds gave a shit about “My Bloody Valentine” and that movie made $50 million on a $15 million budget. Even “Halloween II”, the sequel to a widely hated remake, made $30 million on a $15 million budget: everybody hated that movie and it broke even. As long as something works once, Hollywood will keep trying it.

So, if you were wondering why Hollywood won’t make any original movies, you now have your depressing answer. Myself, I’m eagerly awaiting the remake of “Zombieland” in 2019.


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