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Budget-conscious Hollywood in grip of remake fever
Tue Apr 7, 2009 12:41am EDT
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By Steven Zeitchik and Borys Kit
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The impressive opening of "Fast & Furious" during the weekend not only proves there's gas in that franchise, it also gives fuel to Hollywood's obsession with movies based on, well, other movies.
Studios have been remaking movies pretty much since they began making them, but during the past year and particularly the past few months, the remake machine has gone into overdrive.
The 1980s have turned into a full-fledged garage sale of titles. "Romancing the Stone," "Footloose," "A Nightmare on Elm Street," "Dune," "The Karate Kid," "Red Dawn," "RoboCop," "The Big Chill," "Arthur," "Ghostbusters" and "The NeverEnding Story" are but a few of the titles from that decade being developed in Hollywood.
The trend has broadened to include lesser-known properties from other media whose full value was thought to have been realized -- and, in some cases forgotten -- long ago ("Candy Land," anyone?).
When Warner Bros. sought screenwriters for open assignments in February, eight of the 10 requests were for projects based on a previous movie or other branded property.
AN EASIER PITCH
Producers say it is now common for them to check lists of hits from another decade to see what might be easiest legally and creatively to package and set up at a studio.
"If you're trying to get a movie made now, you can push the rock up a mountain or you can push it on flat ground," said one studio-based producer, explaining the rationale for remake mania. "And most of us would rather push it on flat ground."
Development executives say it's now routine for anyone who ever had a branded property to explore big-screen possibilities.
When "Transformers" took off two years ago, its filmmakers got a pitch from the Mattel toy line Hot Wheels wondering if they'd like to find a good guy-vs.-bad-guy story arc in the venerable brand. (In that case, at least, the response was negative, though the toy line now is in development as a feature at Warners.)
As the remake net is cast ever wider, the cycle from original to redo continues to shorten.
Like "Furious" -- which brings together the principal cast and writers from the 2001 original and occupies ground somewhere between sequel and reboot -- other movies are coming back in new guises sooner than ever.
Neil Moritz, who produced "Furious," is developing a new version of the 1990 sci-fi hit "Total Recall" as well as relaunching "XXX," which first hit the screen just seven years ago. "Lara Croft" is getting a new treatment from Dan Lin and Warner Bros. just eight years after the Angelina Jolie original. Fox already is eyeing a relaunch of its "Fantastic Four" franchise; the two entries were hits just a few years ago. And at the recent ShoWest exhibitors' conference, Sony said it will bring back "Men in Black" for another escapade.
No one's saying that "Titanic" or "Forrest Gump" is getting a redo -- yet -- but the fact that teen audiences don't generally remember any picture that's more than 15 years old is a key factor in remakes' fashionability. In just a couple of years the multiplex could be programed with the same titles that first unspooked during the Clinton administration.
As one producer put it, "The '90s are totally fair game." Continued...
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