It comes as no surprise that sequels and reboots have dominated the cinematic landscape throughout the entirety of 2018. While we have had occasional flashes of original, stand-alone films making a decent chunk of change at the box office (Hereditary comes to mind) they are by far the exception to the rule, not the rule itself.
We should not be surprised by this, though. Marvel, for instance, set them up for an incredible year by releasing Black Panther, Infinity War and Ant-Man and the Wasp all in the same year. In fact, Disney has shown the power of their cinematic entities, both through Marvel and with the release of highly-anticipated projects like Incredibles 2.
On the flip-side, stand-alone projects, like Steve McQueen’s Widows, Alex Garland’s Annihilation, Damien Chazelle’s First Man, Drew Goddard’s Bad Times at the El Royale, or even Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria (which, while technically being a remake, had almost nothing in common with its predecessor) all flopped at the box office — and hard.
Just look at the box office revenue compared to the films’ budgets and see if you can spot a difference between the two types of films released this year.
Stand-Alone Original Films' Budget vs. Revenue (Millions)
Sequels/Reboots Budget vs. Revenue (Millions)
I couldn’t even fit Avengers: Infinity War on this graph because it made over $2 billion (domestic & foreign combined) at the box office.
Now, please understand, I’m not saying “death to all sequels” or that we should end Marvel because it’s taking up too much of the box office revenue. However, if we are serious about wanting new, original films we need to actually show up so they make money. Hollywood is a machine, and its fuel is box office revenue. Without that fuel, investors aren’t going to go with new, brazen ideas; they’re going to go with what’s safe. That’s why Disney is rebooting every single one of their animated films — even the ones nobody is asking for. That’s why Marvel is pumping out 2-3 films a year. That is why every production company is obsessed with the “cinematic universe” concept. Now, with Disney acquiring Fox and all of its entities, it looks like we’re going to see even more of this.
We like familiar ideas; we like characters we know, and we thrive on childhood nostalgia. This is all understandable. A Star Is Born for instance, is currently my #3 film of the year. Remakes and reboots are not inherently awful. However, the amount of money they are claiming at the box office, and the amount of remakes and reboots being pumped out of the Hollywood machine, is frightening. Compounding this is how quality films from accomplished filmmakers (Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave scored a Best Picture win just four years ago, and Luca Guadagnino was nominated last year for Call Me By Your Name) are failing miserably at the box office, lowering the chances of investors giving them further opportunities to create original, stand-alone films. That is not good for filmmakers, and it is not good for cinema as a whole.