It's a common complaint that an unimaginative Hollywood industry churns out
remake after remake and one with firm justification, as a substantial amount of
current releases are based on earlier films. For Hollywood producers the
rationale for this production pattern is that the remake is a safe investment,
offering the same low risk and potentially high returns one sees with the
sequel and the bestseller adaptation. Could this be a misguided strategy,
This research argues that the remake may not offer the same safe and
consistent box office bet that one associates with other brand extensions. For
every remake that rings the box office bell loudly, there is a comparable box
office bomb. For every War of the Worlds (2005 - worldwide gross $591,745,540)
there is a Conan the Barbarian, which cost $90 million to make in 2011 and
grossed less than $50 million worldwide.
The authors of this research demonstrate that where brand extensions such as
sequels offer a degree of familiarity, they also offer a significant amount of
'sensation' that is new to the viewer, and this is vital if any rush to the
local multiplex is to be sparked. In contrast the average remake merely offers
familiarity, and frequently only enough to breed contempt.
Good and successful remakes do exist however, and so the format should not
be written off. Using a dataset of 207 remakes released in American theatres
between 1999 and 2011 against a matched sample of other films, the authors
found that although remakes do not increase revenue they do reduce financial
This research presents a contingency model which identifies the factors that
determine the success of remakes. This model could prove extremely useful for
film producers across the world, as it may help them identify those films for
which a remake would be successful and to avoid those that could spawn a flop.
The full research paper is forthcoming in the Journal of Cultural
In previous research entitled
The Importance of Reciprocal Spillover Effects for the Valuation of
Bestseller Brands Professor Hennig-Thureau et al looked at how
successful film adaptations of bestseller novels can have reciprocal spillover
benefits for the source material. This has links with the forthcoming research
and is recommended reading.