Hollywood’s Trending Topic: Unoriginality

I’ve seen this coming for a while, but it seems this year the corner is going to be turned. Hollywood is abandoning original screenplays and going for stories based on books, movies, history, graphic novels, and other copied medium. I’ve read three articles in the last two days saying the same thing: Hollywood is going down the toilet because of this unoriginality. The proof is in the pudding.

2011 will break the record for sequels. There are 27 total sequels coming out next year. The most in history. They range from The Hangover: 2, to that unspeakable franchise that is on its 8th movie. Hollywood is done taking risks. They take something that has made money once and beat it to a pulp, ringing out every last penny that the movie can make. Some deserve it: (The Hangover, Toy Story, The Bourne Identity). But far too many don’t.

Even aside from sequels is the absolutely massive practice of taking a story from another media source and turning it into a movie. This year, of the ten movies up for best picture at The Oscars, only two have original idea screenplays: Inception, and The Kids are All Right. Both of which have little to no shot of winning the prize. For every one original movie made in hollywood, there are three sequels, prequels, remakes, reboots, or adaptations. I’m not saying I don’t want True Grit or Black Swan to win best picture, because I do. But hollywood needs to start taking chances on original screenplays, or the magic of a great writing mind might be lost forever.

Of course we all know why these risks aren’t taken: money.  Hollywood is a business. And what does Joel Poor teach you about business marketing the first day of class? NEVER MASS MARKET. You always need to segment the market into quadrants and then pick where you want your product to fit. The movie business is no different. There are 4 main quadrants, young boys, young girls, old men and old women. This is going to freak everybody out, but typically, the age cutoff from young to old is 25. Yeah I even feel old. It’s rare when a movie can cross all boundaries, and when that happens, you make the most money of all time. Avatar did just that. The widely accepted most responsive market segment is young boys. The testosterone filled, ADD, tough guy teenagers will go see anything with boobs and/or an explosion. Transformers is example A. With that prototype, we can begin to tie back in sequels too. (The third is coming out this year, and Shia LeBouf was quoted as saying that it won’t suck like the other ones. Don’t believe that). Just think of all the testosterone fueled movies that come out these days.

Where do a lot of these movies get their ideas from? Graphic novels and comics. A podcast I listen to (Film Vault, check it out it’s great) had a guest on the show who once pitched an idea to one of the big hollywood studios and was literally told to come back with an idea from a graphic novel.  I don’t read a lot of these, so I can’t genuinely comment if they are good or not, but the movies that are constantly spat out aren’t. They will keep coming, however. Why? You guessed it: because of the money. Ghost Rider (based on a graphic novel) was widely considered a turd movie. 5.2 on IMDb, 26% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet, it earned $228 million, more than doubling its expenses. And yes, the sequel gets green-lit. Look away from it in 2012.

I’ll say it again: Hollywood is a business. And evil big businesses always have an uprising of small genuine companies at some point in time. Micro-brews are on the rise currently against Budwieser and MillerCoors. There is a similar movement against Hollywood in the form of film festivals, and one is right here in Columbia. I’m ordering my pass to the True/False Film Festival today. Some of these movies are based on other medium, but they are all made without dollar signs in the eyes and cash register bells in the ears. Give ’em a try. You might surprise yourself.

I love all types of movies, and I’ll always be a mindless dollar sign to the industry, consuming whatever they put out there. But I really think this year a page is turned and the chapter is permanently finished on originality in Hollywood.

Agree or not (you probably don’t). That is what I Think I Think.

Sources:

2011 Will Break All Time Record for Movie Sequels” – Germain Lussier

Inception May Be Oscar’s Last Chance to Award Originality” – Eric Eisenberg

The Day The Movies Died” – Mark Harris

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