Any time news hits that a reboot or sequel is being released, many are quick to jump to the conclusion that Hollywood has run out of ideas. This simply isn’t the case.
Of course the box office statistics may lead you to believe this: if you look up the top ten highest-grossing movies of all time (unadjusted for inflation), Avatar and Titanic are the only two original movies. The rest are reboots or sequels, mostly from Disney-owned properties. This is a good indicator of what Hollywood believes you want to watch: superhero movies and sequels/reboots.
Of course, we all know that isn’t true, but those kinds of movies and television shows are safe bets for movie and television companies. It’s important to note that these companies make money when you watch what they make. Those companies fund the production, and the goal is to make that money back and then some. However today, that’s harder than ever to accomplish. When the movie and television industry was just movie theaters and three channels, that was an easy goal to reach. Then cable came along, both basic and premium, and proved they could compete pretty well for the viewer’s attention. Then streaming video came along and now with Netflix almost 200 million worldwide subscribers strong, there’s even more competition and less money to go around.
If you really feel like Hollywood has run out of ideas, take a look at Netflix’s library of original content, many of which are award-winning. Services like Netflix thrive on people subscribing to their service, and the more content a service has, the more enticing it will be to the consumer. Netflix knows content is king, which is why they invested billions of dollars in new shows and movies, and considering its staggering number of subscribers, I’d say that has paid off. Many of the popular shows on Netflix are original productions, like Tiger King this past year which was massive. Sure, the top trending list on Netflix will contain quite a few third-party titles, third-party titles of course being what Netflix thrived on in its infancy, but today, Netflix is a premium destination where artists want to be.
It’s why Sony wasn’t too sad to see Adam Sandler leave and sign a deal with Netflix. Adam Sandler’s movies released by Sony’s Columbia Pictures did well enough in the box office, generally making at least double what the film’s budget was. Still, that’s not a great bet, and Sandler’s movies were getting more and more expensive to produce. From Sandler’s perspective, moving to Netflix gives him final cut, he receives guaranteed money, and his Netflix movies are constantly on the top lists of Netflix. He doesn’t have to worry about the box office, and he doesn’t have to worry about who will watch his movies as they premiere on the number one streaming service.
When it comes to traditional studios, they want a financial guarantee as well. Paramount felt that even their upcoming sequel Coming 2 America was too risky to premiere in a theater (mostly due to the pandemic) or even paid video on demand, like how Trolls was released earlier this year, so they struck a very lucrative deal to premiere on Amazon Prime. Television and movie companies are looking for safer bets that they’ll make their money back, and if Paramount can guarantee a multi-hundred million dollar deal, they’ll do it.
But companies like ViacomCBS’s Paramount want that direct-to-consumer service as well, which is why CBS All Access will transition into Paramount+. It’s also why several ViacomCBS channels will be switching to producing more television movies over television series. The company plans to produce over 100 movies a year for the channels. Why? Not only are movies cheaper to produce, but it creates more content for Paramount+. Comedy Central premiered 10 shows between 2019 and 2020, with one being a reboot. Only Awkwafina had a successful show that made a splash, with the others either being cancelled or relocated to a streaming service. If 20–30 movies premiere in a year on Comedy Central, because there’s more content, there’s a greater chance that more of them will catch on and be successful, thus providing more desirable content for Paramount+.
In conclusion, although plenty of original productions have been in place and will continue to be produced, because the reboots and sequels get all the attention, the perspective will be that Hollywood has run out of ideas. Reboots and sequels have been a part of entertainment for almost its entire existence. Just look at all the fairy tales and books Walt Disney adapted to film during the early 1900s. Reboots and sequels are what drive people to the medium, but original productions will always be there to prove that artists still have many new stories to tell.