Regardless of their success or failure, reboots seem to have become the default approach by film studios for half a decade, if not longer. This article intends to look at the “How?”, the “Why?”, and the future of reboots in cinema. To clarify, there are several different ways that films can be considered a reboot:
- The film retells the same story, possibly with changes to vocabulary, ethnicity and technologies, to adapt it from the source material to the new film’s vision.
- The film ignores some elements from the source material but retains defining characteristics of that material.
- The film keeps its name for brand recognition purposes but is otherwise a completely different product than what came before.
How Film Reboots Have Fared
When one looks at the top 10 domestically grossing films from the last five years, Disney’s live action “Cinderella” placed 9th in 2015, their live action take on Sleeping Beauty, “Maleficent,” placed 8th in 2014 and “Oz: The Great and Powerful” placed 10th in 2013. While Sony’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” placed 7th in 2012, no reboot placed within the top 10 of 2011.
When you expand that same list to the top 100 films and look for the poorest performing reboots, Warner Brothers’ “Arthur” took 96th place in 2011, “The Three Stooges” placed 77th in 2012, Screen Gems’ “Carrie” placed 83rd in 2013, Universal’s “Dracula Untold” did relatively well for itself as the 57th highest grossing film of 2014 and “Hitman: Agent 47” landed at 97th place.
While all of these figures sound wonderful on paper, the take-away from this information is that the most successful reboots seem to be attached to brands and IPs that have a wide-reaching audience; Spider-Man is one of the most well-known superheroes in Western culture, Disney is a media juggernaut and “The Wizard of Oz” is also an American institution of fiction. Conversely, the other mentioned films consist of horror icons, both classic and cult, comedies and the second adaptation of a video game.
Why Film Reboots Have Become So Prevalent
The most basic explanation for why reboots have filled so many spots on the box office marquee is that it is easier to market a known quantity than marketing something that is completely original to the movie-going public. Among the top 100 grossing films of 2015, 41 were reboots, sequels, or adaptations of existing media, with “Inside Out” as the sole original property among the top 10 films of 2015.
Will This Trend of Film Reboots Continue?
As of writing this article, there are more than 100 films coming down the pipe in one form or another that would qualify as a reboot. Going through as many letters of the alphabet as possible, this list of film reboots includes:
- A live-action take on “Akira.”
- “Blue Thunder” reworked to be about drones instead of a helicopter.
- “Charlie’s Angels.”
- Cinema classic “Das Boot.”
- “Escape from New York.”
- “Flash Gordon”
- A live action version of “Ghost in the Shell” featuring actress Scarlett Johansson.
- Stephen King’s “It.”
- “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.”
- “Masters of the Universe.”
- “Ocean’s 11.”
- “Power Rangers.”
- “Red Sonja.”
- “Short Circuit.”
- “Time Cop,” likely without Jean-Claude van Damme.
- “Van Helsing.”
- “Weird Science.”
- “Zorro Reborn,” which is rumored to be a post-apocalyptic re-imagining.
Even with just these titles, it seems quite obvious that reboots will be in the theater for some time.