James Noble, Chief Experience Officer at WongDoody, calls for more originality in 2025, asking if Hollywood has run out of ideas.
In the glitzy realm of Hollywood, the eternal tug-of-war between artistic innovation and commercial viability has long been the axis around which the industry spins. As we head into 2024, it’s evident that the scales have tilted precariously toward the side of safe, familiar territory: movie sequels, remakes, and franchises. The effects are visible here in Australia, where the box office results tell tales of nostalgia, with the three biggest movies currently remakes and sequels: Wonka, Trolls and The Hunger Games. Yet, in this age of safe bets and nostalgia-driven cinema, are we sacrificing the potency of original ideas at the altar of commercial assurance?
One look at the line-up of movie releases for 2024 suggests the answer is yes. No less than 27 of the most anticipated releases next year are sequels, prequels, remakes, and spinoffs: The Lion King, Lord of the Rings, Deadpool, Gladiator, Twister and even our very own Australian cult classic Mad Max is getting a prequel. I might be a self-confessed 80’s movie tragic, but that doesn’t mean I want to see the modern interpretation of classics like Alien, Beverly Hills Cop and Karate Kid. In fact, the reason I love 80’s cinema is the originality and risk-taking we saw. It’s clear that in a year of global economic challenges and cost of living challenges, Hollywood is banking heavily on the proven, the known, and the secure.
Striking a balance in Hollywood
The recent strikes in Hollywood highlight the tensions between the major studios and the creative talent that makes the movies. The strikes were some of the longest in the union’s history and threatened to shut down film and television production in the United States. Studios are under pressure to deliver ever-higher profits to shareholders, and they are often reluctant to take risks on original projects. This can lead to a cycle of sequels, remakes, and franchise films, as these are seen as safer bets. In this era of risk-averse filmmaking, the desire for guaranteed returns might be clouding the pursuit of true creativity and cinematic innovation. The film industry, much like any industry, thrives on the bold strokes of originality, daring to venture into uncharted territories, exploring untold stories, and bringing novel perspectives to life. The narratives etched from scratch, devoid of pre-existing blueprints, possess the magnetic charm to both challenge and enchant audiences in ways that sequels often struggle to replicate.
AI is changing how movies are made
Artificial intelligence (AI) is already having a major impact on the film industry. Being used to create special effects, write scripts, and even edit movies. In the future, AI could be used to create even more immersive and personalised movie experiences. For example, creating movies that adapt to the viewer’s preferences, or to generate different endings based on the viewer’s choices, or used to develop new forms of storytelling that are not possible with traditional filmmaking techniques, such as generating a movie that is constantly evolving and changing, based on the input of the audience.
However, there are also concerns about the potential negative impacts of AI on the film industry. Some worry that it could lead to the loss of jobs for human filmmakers and writers. Others worry that it could be used to create movies that are formulaic and unoriginal. It is still too early to say what the long-term impact of AI on the film industry will be. However, it’s a powerful tool that has the potential to both revolutionise and disrupt the way movies are made. Assisting is the best way to look at it, not replacing Hollywood and its creative talent in all their forms to enhance and evolve the industry.
Creativity and originality are the lifeblood of the film industry. They inspire filmmakers to push boundaries, challenge norms, and breathe life into stories that resonate deeply with audiences on an emotional and intellectual level. However with the lure of guaranteed profits, studios risk relegating these innovative endeavours to the side-lines, thereby stifling the very essence that propels cinema forward. The paradox lies in the fact that while sequels and franchise continuations assure a certain degree of financial success, they often pale in comparison to the impact and resonance of original, trailblazing narratives. The risk inherent in championing novel ideas might not always yield immediate financial dividends, but the creative dividends and legacy they offer are unparalleled.
We’ve seen this story before
A research paper which analysed over 4,000 films and major studio production over the 28-year period of 1988 to 2015 found “major distributors have adopted increasingly risk-averse release strategies, while at the same time benefiting from a market environment that has seen the reach of films expand, both in international markets.” “For audiences this has meant an environment in which choice is restricted, and the unanticipated, ‘surprising’ film experience less likely to occur.” The research found some studios consistently outperformed industry averages, and these high performers were often those pursuing successful sequel strategies.
Sequels were seen to enhance studio profitability by reducing unexpected surprises for consumers, narrowing consumer risk. But the pursuit of franchise movie succuss doesn’t come without its own risks. Last year, DC films attempted to launch its own Marvel style Cinematic Universe, with its film Black Adam starring Dwayne, The Rock, Johnson, which fell epically flat at the global box office, cancelling plans for future productions. The critics’ view was fans weren’t naïve enough not to see through the manufactured attempt lure them into a franchise. Finally, a win for originality.
Beyond the silver screen, this same quest for originality echoes loudly in the corridors of the business world, especially in the tough economic climate of 2024. Companies that dare to innovate, to charter new territories, and to birth disruptive solutions amid adversity, often emerge as trailblazers even in the bleakest economic landscapes. In 2024, it will be those enterprises willing to pivot, to evolve, and to conjure up inventive solutions, not unlike the groundbreaking narratives on the silver screen, stand poised to not only survive but thrive.
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