Recycling 'RoboCop' won't save movie studios

As remakes and sequels have increased, movie attendance has plummeted. It's more correlation than cause, but it doesn't mean US audiences don't want original ideas.

By Jason Notte Sep 9, 2013 7:04AM
© Columbia PicturesThere's 25 years of rust on the original idea, Holder from AMC's "The Killing" in the Judge Dredd-meets-Knight Rider reboot suit and almost none of original director Paul Verhoeven's social commentary on class and consumerism. But, OK, let's get excited about "RoboCop."

The first trailer for director José Padilha's remake of the 1987 cyborg-cop cult classic made the rounds on Friday, along with Padilha's assertion that his version would be super relevant because it mulls the evil use of drones -- you know, like the entire "Terminator" franchise did.

The film comes out in February, and we're all supposed to be duly impressed by the new RoboCop suit -- black is the new stainless steel! -- and its updated politics and computer-generated images.

We're also supposed to pretend that Sony (SNE) didn't pull this off the intellectual property scrap heap, send it to the fabricators for recycling and regurgitate it at us in a more bloated form -- just as we've been doing faithfully for the last decade or so.

The '90s weren't an ideologically pure moment in mass-market U.S. cinema by any means, but seven of the 10 top-grossing films of the decade -- "Home Alone," "Aladdin," "Jurassic Park," "Toy Story," "Independence Day," "Titanic" and "Saving Private Ryan" -- weren't sequels or remakes. But for the last decade, with the exception of "Avatar" in 2009, the top-grossing film each year has been a sequel or part of a franchise.

What's the difference, you ask? Between 1990 and 1999, movie attendance rose from 1.19 billion tickets sold to 1.46 billion. Since 2003, ticket sales dropped from 1.53 billion to just 1.36 billion last year. The blame for the drop in ticket sales to pre-1999 levels doesn't lie exclusively with sequels and remakes -- high-definition TV, the Internet, Blu-ray, streaming and video games are all often cited as culprits -- but they may be a symptom of that drop.

Longtime blockbuster-building directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas made ripples back in June when they suggested that Hollywood was no longer willing to take risk and was content to just throw large sums of money at sure-thing rehashes. The result, they said, would be a niche theater experience and $100 to $150 tickets.

It explains why Disney (DIS) opened the bank vault to make "The Lone Ranger" and was dealt a vicious blow when it tanked at the U.S. box office. It also explains why Warner Brothers (TWX) basically starved Legendary Pictures and director Guillermo Del Toro's giant robot and monster movie "Pacific Rim" and allowed it to be eaten alive by a "Star Trek" sequel here in the U.S.

However, the monster battle with the big $190 million budget still made more than $100 million domestically -- finishing just outside the Top 20, but ahead of "Die Hard," "Smurfs," "Red" and "Percy Jackson" sequels -- and raked in $300 million abroad. That made a sequel not only likely, but perhaps imminent.

With China already considering many U.S. sequels and remakes too dumb for its moviegoing public and U.S. audiences rewarding relatively small films, including "Spring Breakers," "Mama" and "The Purge" with big profits, moviegoers are maintaining a market for original films. It's not their fault that big studios have grown too lazy, uninspired and cynical to meet customers where they're at.

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Sep 9, 2013 12:32PM
I believe its the price of theater tickets that is driving down attendance.  My wife and I spent $30 taking our two kids out to a movie; the children's tickets being only $.25 less than our own (and this was a matinee!).  The theater experience is not that superior to what we have at home and, for that price, it ain't worth it!
Sep 10, 2013 6:02PM

Damnit, if you're going to remake a movie, remake a bad one into a good one. Stop remaking movies that were already awesome. They don't need to be remade! They were good the first time! GO PHUCK YOURSELF, HOLLYWOOD

Sep 10, 2013 10:13PM
1. Less intelligent movies
2. terrible economy and inflation
3.people have less disposable income
4. Theater filled with
                 - rude people
                - cell phones
                - screaming kids
                - doucheb@gs covered in aqua di Gio
5. 10 dollar sodas and popcorn

Sep 9, 2013 3:32PM
He's right.. I bought a High Def projector... plunked down $100 for a 3-D compatible Blu-Ray Player and paired a pretty good OTB Okyno 7.2 Sound System......... and SHAZAM!!!!  Instant home theater ... Did I mention the screen is 120 inches? Yeah... not going to the theater anytime soon.. I'll wait for the 3-D Blu-Ray/DVD/ Ultraviolet release. back in the day it used to take a year for a dvd release. now it's down to less than six months... I"m good!...
Sep 10, 2013 5:16AM

Don't like going to the movies anyway. I'll wait for the movie to come to me in my own private home theatre. No morons sitting next to or behind me crunching and munching popcorn, crinkling wrappers, talking, kicking my seat, bringing in their rotten children, or babies wailing. Besides, most new movies are the same old overblown CG special effects, loud noise, fights, explosions, beautiful models kicking everyone's **** with karate/ballet, and predictable endings. If I have to take a leak, I either have to hold it or climb over everyone and miss some of the movie...or I can just put it on "pause"...





Sep 10, 2013 5:17PM
Sadly movie going is not what it used to be. A little patience and you can see that new block buster on video or the internet with in 3 to 6 months of its initial release. A person can buy a copy for about what it would cost  two people to see it at the movies, and that's not including any popcorn or sodas. I am showing my age but I remember when going to the movies was an adventure, two movies with a news reel and a cartoon between the shows. And the fun at the drive ins, the video and sound quality were nothing like today but damn it was fun. Making out with your girlfriend, joking around with your friends, setting up some lawn chairs when the weather was warm. And around the 4th of July there was always an audience instigated impromptu fireworks celebration during intermission. Sadly gone and never to return.
Sep 9, 2013 1:03PM

OR like the movie Oblivion that borrows from Moon, 2001, Independence day, Doomsday Machine from classic Star Trek.    


Face it, everything has been done.   Remakes are just easy cash cows to prop up an industry that hasn't accepted technology shift to the home theater system w/ internet connection.  The industry has NO fresh ideas for stories..


Potty humor is stale,  CGI explosions are boring and horror is for sickos. 

Thank God for internet pirates. No more will I be paying for films unless I think they should earn my  money( and few do) I view most of my movies over the internet, or I get free ones from sources off line.One would be amazed at how many vcr tapes have good movies on them, and people give them away. I usually buy used, if I need to buy at all. Watching a movie on an old tv with one's own snacks saves money and Drama.
Sep 10, 2013 6:41PM
if the movie is done right, made better or made in such away as to not ruin the original then remaking it does not upset me. however to quote man others the price to go to the theater is getting unreal I took my son to see a matinee of iron man 3 for his birthday it cost nearly 30 for the 2 of us before popcorn soda or any other liberties. if you get all that stuff your looking at 50 bucks or better for 2 people to go to the movies that's ridiculous!
Sep 10, 2013 9:07PM
While "everything has been done" is true... all plots are just old plots re-visited... Hollywood does not even have the ability anymore to re-work the myths and legends.  Just re-boot and re-make.  Heck, they are even re-making movies which bombed the first time.  Robocop does not need to be re-done, the first one had a definitive message and charm, while being a bit low-budget Sci-Fi movie in its day.  It's bad enough the writers and directors can't get the books they do right (like Lord of the RIngs), but to re-make movies and do the original intent a injustice is also bad.
Sep 10, 2013 9:03PM
If the remake is an improvement over the original, okay.  If it is just to try and capitalize on the original, not.  With the new technology available for sci-fi action it may be worthwhile to see some of the remakes.
Sep 10, 2013 11:27PM

The price of a movie ticket is what may limit a movies box office draw.

Somehow someone thought it wise to bring up the cost of a movie ticket to what we see it to be today..

Realistically an adult movie ticket should not be more than 5.00 dollars period..  Any extra revenue should be available by offering related movie extras such as autographed posters, toys and so on the producers should use their own imagination as to what extras they can offer in the theatre, but it shouldn’t be in higher ticket prices.. Remember dvd sales at times brings in more than the box office itself.

What has happened with the price of a movie ticket is that they have taken a page off the book of oil producers and seek out reasons to raise the prices. If a movie company wants to spend x amount of money to produce a movie, well that’s their problem. Not the consumers. Many low budget movies turn out to be much better than big budget movies. Furthermore many big time directors made their best work when they where starting out in the business and the budget money wasn’t there and they had to use their imagination.. Whatever happened with that. Haha.


Sep 10, 2013 8:39PM
Well first of all it cost too much to go to a movie! Bring down the prices! Secondly they made a remake of Total Recall!  Basically it sucked!  The man of steel I have not watched it because the first thing was to change the suit! and the excuse was Krypton is a more advanced culture so the Victoria style suit would not apply.   First his earth mother made it and she had moral values.  That was the second reason I did not go to the theater to watch it, the first was the prices!  When you make a remake try to do it right not make $hit up as you go along! Because your trying to build onto something that was already a hit, and end up making crashing and burning!
Sep 10, 2013 7:27PM
STUPID STUPID STUPID.... I wish these stupid film makers would come up with NEW ideas.. yet another stupid remake or reboot or whatever these idiots call them... but really, who's more of an idiot; the film makers, or the people who support these abortions by paying at the box office?  After the total desecration of Star Trek, and how horrible Man of Steel was, people get a clue.  Now they're going to not only ruin RoboCop, but also they're rebooting Terminator.  People, stop paying for these farces at the box office  and maybe these fools will get the message.  NO MORE REMAKES!
Sep 10, 2013 6:22PM
I guess those 'BIG WIGS' that are running the Entertainment Industry has run out of ideas be it remaking old movies or making Reality Shows. It doesn't matter they literally 'BORE' me to death !!!
Sep 11, 2013 6:36AM

When a society begins to stutter… when it begins to repeat artistic motifs from the past in lesser forms and with inferior execution… it is a sure sign of decadence and a harbinger of decline and collapse. Hollywood "re-makes" (for instance, big screen versions of bad television shows from the '70s) are indicators that we have run out of ideas as a civilization.  

We will soon be on the slippery slope toward collapse unless the self-appointed arbiters of public taste and consumption… who are really nothing more than money-men trying to maximize their profits by feeding the lowest-common-denominator recycled rejecta… get out of the way and allow the new and creative to be born… instead of stillborn.  

The ideas of the most creative members of our society have been ridiculed, marginalized, and co-opted by consumerism for decades.  We're doomed as a culture if we can't find a way to stop it from happening.  

Sep 10, 2013 7:56PM
It's the price, plain and simple. People still like going to the movies. It's a night out. Now, however, you are talking about a movie and dinner date costing like $50-$60 bucks. You're supposed to be able to hook your kid up with a $20 spot so he can take a girl on a date, not cut him a check! Avatar, for it's syrupy, predictable plot was, at least, a departure from the remake and the caking off of an existing franchise business model applied to making movies today. Unfortunately, it also has to hang its hat on its technological aspects so we are caught between seeing a movie for its story and for its effects. Now, the trailer is the movie. Show everyone what they will be seeing and they are sucked in so there is that 3 or 4 day window before word gets out that what they saw in the trailer was all they needed to see. Movies should be about entertaining people and not about tricking us out of our money by showing us trailers of explosions, space ships, and car chases. All I have to say is, "If you build it, he will come."   
Sep 11, 2013 8:24AM
Screw the theater anyway.. people being rude, talking on cell phones, kids crying and hollering during the movie, EXPENSIVE concession... why do it when you don't have to?  Most likely get the movie at RedBox or online for a buck, fire up some Jiffy Pop for 1.79, a case of sodas from Costco costs around 6 dollars, and your bathroom is just down the hall.  Today's tv sets are HD and BEAUTIFUL, so why not avoid the theater altogether?  Have a pleasant experience, and then be as selective as you want as to what movies and WHEN you want to see them.  If we keep supporting "reboots" and the abortions that are produced, why should film makers quit coming out with them?
Sep 11, 2013 8:55AM
In a general sense, all the movies are remade, just with a more superior technology. It's more like the car evolution. The 1993 Mitsubishi Mirage (1.5 L engine) can give a 40 MPG on the highway, if I remember it correctly...
Sep 11, 2013 12:46PM
I blame everyone that complains that there are no original good movies but did not go see "Pacific Rim". That movie was AMAZING!
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