Hollywood plays it again

Category: Phantom of the Opera News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: June 1, 2004 | Publication: CNN/Money | Author: Chris Isidore, CNN/Money senior writer
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Flood of remakes in the pipeline to flood movie theaters starting in June.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Hollywood has decided you can't have too much of a good thing, so a flood of remakes is set to jam the nation's multiplexes.

Three remakes that opened in March and April -- "Dawn of the Dead," "Walking Tall" and "The Ladykillers," are still in a couple of hundred theaters apiece, all after bringing in at least $40 million in domestic ticket sales. They will soon be joined by a three major summer releases that all remake classic movies of between 30 and nearly 50 years ago. And these are just the first of another dozen remakes already set for releases through the end of 2005.

First up will be "The Stepford Wives," starring Nicole Kidman, due out June 11. Next will be the June 16 release of "Around the World in 80 Days," starring Jackie Chan. On July 30 comes "The Manchurian Candidate," starring Denzel Washington. And these are just the first of another dozen remakes already set for releases through the end of 2005.

Studio executives and industry experts say the current crush is due to the success of the 2001 film "Ocean's 11," a remake of a 1960 Frank Sinatra movie. The remake, starring George Clooney, did $450.8 million in worldwide box office.

"There are these cycles in Hollywood. Part of that is once there's one success, everyone tries to emulate the success," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co.

Dergarabedian said that despite the "Ocean's 11" remake, box office success is far from a sure thing for remakes.

"The landscape is littered with remakes that didn't work," he said. "The perceived advantage to a remake is the built-in brand recognition of the audience. But any time you're talking about a movie from the 60's aimed at an audience born in the 80's, there's a disconnect. Most of the people going to the movies now won't even know about the original."

He points to two 2002 films, "The Trouble About Charlie," a remake of the 1963 movie "Charade" that did only $5.3 million in U.S. box office, and the "The In-Laws," a remake of the 1979 film of the same name, that did only $20.2 million.

Toby Emmerich, production chief at New Line Cinema, who had a hit with the 2003 remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," says that hoping to play on audience's fondness for the original is one motivation for a remake, but not the only one.

"It's such a crowded marketplace, any kind of recognition or built-in affinity or interest you can have can be a leg up," he said. But he agreed most original movies that inspire remakes are unknown to the mass audience. "I'm not sure how many average filmgoers know 'The Manchurian Candidate,'" he said.

The most important factor in greenlighting a remaking is to feed Hollywood's never-ending appetite for good story ideas.

"It's always the thinking, 'if it worked once, it can work again,'" he said.

He said that directors, and even some actors, can be wary of attempting a movie or a role for which someone else has already won critical acclaim. And he said even fans of the original movie may be wary of going to see a remake. He said the marketing of a remake, its trailer and commercials, must convince fans of the original that the new film is both faithful to the original and also a fresh and updated version.

"That's a paradoxical set of demands but not necessarily contradictory," he said.

The studios most active in the current flood of remakes are Viacom unit Paramount and Time Warner studio Warner Bros. CNN/Money and New Line are also Time Warner units.

Paramount, which had a remake hit last year in "The Italian Job," has both "The Stepford Wives" and "The Manchurian Candidate," as well as "The Longest Yard" and "What's It All About Alfie" due in theaters in the next 12 months.

"Paramount is mining its own history," said Brandon Gray, president of box office tracking firm BoxOfficeMojo.com. Warner Bros., whose remakes have included the hit "Ocean's 11," as well as the disappointing "The In-Laws," has "The Phantom of the Opera" due out in Dec. 3, as well as a remake of the horror movie "House of Wax," at some point later this year. Its 2005 remakes include the children's movie "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and science fiction movies "Fahrenheit 451" and "Logan's Run."

Even with potential pitfalls, remakes will never go away, even when the current spate of remakes plays itself out.

"Hollywood likes short-hand pitches for a film. 'Speed' could be pitched as 'Die Hard on a bus,'" said Dergarabedian. "Remakes are the ultimate short-hand pitch. In 20 years when someone wants to remake 'Speed' they'll just say 'It's Speed.'"