Gremlins? The Goonies? Dumb & Dumber To?! There's a good reason why nostalgia is coming to a theatre near you…
"HEYYY YOUU GUYYYSS!" You'll have to sit down for this. They're making The Goonies 2 and rebooting Gremlins. Deep breath. Robin Williams and director Chris Columbus are attached to a Mrs. Doubtfire sequel (but not Mara Wilson). Then there is the James and Dave Franco homage to Tommy Wiseau's The Room (Oh, hi Mark!). A Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure reboot may star Justin Bieber. There's a cinema slot for a remake of Drop Dead Fred with Russell Brand in the part of Rik Mayall. Too soon?
This summer, we've already seen a new Godzilla and, just recently, a trailer for the latest Dumb & Dumber sequel. If you grew up some time in the last 30 or so years, you may be tearing your hair out, thinking, "Why, Hollywood, why?!" After all, the near ruination of The Neverending Story that was funded by Leonardo DiCaprio is still a wound that has not fully healed.
Our thirst for nostalgia is unquenchable. Hollywood has already milked the comic-book angle dry (see: Spider-Man), so it's looking for new bankable property. With the rapid rise of Tumblr nostalgia, top execs at H-town's biggest studios have finally clued in and plan to cash in. The trade-off is seeing your favourite films zombie back to life in second-rate sequels or rotten remakes. Maybe the box office isn't doomed, necessarily, but it's next to impossible to trump the original. These films have all laid claim to their own cultural moments in time, and that cannot be repeated. So why spoil a perfectly good film with a sibling?
I'll tell you why: of the top 12 highest grossing films in 2013, nine were sequels or prequels. They collectively generated $2.6 billion in domestic ticket sales and another $4.5 billion worldwide (nearly one-quarter of the year’s totals). Up in their ivory towers, studio heads are having a laugh, fisting “that was easy” buttons to order more, more, more sequels. The sequel sickness has already been diagnosed as Hollywood’s repetition disorder, because why invest multi-millions on a one-time venture when you can midwife a franchise?
The same also applies to remakes. Marketing budgets are easily slashed when telling people about a movie they've already seen. You enjoyed it once, so why not give it a try a second time round?
People are starting to take notice, and some of those people are the sequel makers themselves. “When you look at what’s coming out this summer, they’re all sequels, they’re all based on toys,” director Doug Liman said on the red carpet at the New York premier of his film Edge of Tomorrow. This, coming from the guy who brought you the entire Bourne series. “We’re doing a sequel, that’s what we do in Hollywooood,” warbles Kermit the Frog in a self-satirising number for Muppets Most Wanted, the follow up to Disney’s 2011 box office knockout The Muppets, “and ev’rybody knows the sequel’s never quite as gooood.” It's not easy being green – or out-joking yourself for a second instalment of what was a series reboot anyway – and the James Bobin-directed film turned out to be a lemon, pulling in only $825,000 above it's initial $50 million budget.
If you've paid any attention to current trends, you'll notice that a lot of Hollywood's bottom line comes from the summer box office. Here's a helpful infographic. The best way to erect a long-standing tentpole film is to ensure there is a built-in audience, like one for, say, a sequel. Or a remake. I'm not calling for a boycott, but I'd just like to direct your attention to this now-more-than-ever relevant scene from Scream 2.
If you're getting an uncomfortable nostalgia itch, you're not alone. People have complained about sequels since the Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland coupling in all the Andy Hardy flicks. But have we reached peak sequel? Are we doomed to a cavalcade of The Mummy Returns and The Mummy Returns: Again? A lot of these movies were schlocky at the time, but they live on under the duvet as hangover double features. Nothing will get you through a bubbly tummy smoother than this scene from The Mask. Each of these films is intrinsically attached to the era which birthed it, which is what makes them cultural touchstones. I applaud Bill Murray's refusal to join in Ghostbusters 3, because, as much as I love the first one, we'd just end up living through another reality in Groundhog Day's Punxsutawney. You can't recreate that moment, no matter how many Tumblr gifs you make of it.