The entertainment industry continues to recycle old ideas into new, and while it’s creatively bankrupt, there’s a good reason why: It’s hard to get people to tune into new ideas. Take this weekend’s amazing Looper for instance: As Box Office Mojo pointed out, the second-place $21 million take was disappointing given everything the film had going for it:
Previews were jam-packed with quality information: they clearly articulated the movie’s unique premise, showed off a few high-profile cast members, and even threw in some action as well. Anyone on the fence after that should have been pushed over thanks to the outstanding reviews (93 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and insane buzz on social media. To only make it to $21.2 million (again, that’s good, not great) with all of those positives illustrates just how difficult it is to get the key older male demographic excited about rushing out on opening weekend for something completely new.
That’s exactly why old titles are recycled even when the new movies or television shows share little in common with the original versions (see, e.g., 21 Jump Street). It’s the only way to draw an audience. It’s also why one of the best showrunners on network television, Jason Katims (Friday NIght Lights, Parenthood) is recycling yet another popular title, Nick Hornby’s About a Boy. That was a great movie based on a great novel, but is there really enough in that premise to sustain a television series? Not within the framework of the film’s narrative, but all Katims really needs to do is borrow the characters — a wealthy and charming single guy who dislikes responsibility ands kids; the kid he grows fond of; and his mentally unstable mother. You can go nuts with those three characters and put them in endless situations. I have no doubt that Katims, too, can make magic out of it, as he has in adapting Friday Night Lights and Parenthood.
Meanwhile, I’m not so keen on a big-screen version of Little House on the Prairie , although it could be interesting coming from director David Gordon Green. Will it be like Gordon Green’s earlier indie work (George Washington, Undertow, Snow Angels) or will he pimp out Little House with a lot of bongs and transform it into something like his later works (Pineapple Express, Eastbound & Down, Your Highness). If he puts some marijuana plants out on that prairie, the movie may have some hope. If not, the last thing I’d want to see is a movie faithful to the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Whatever it ends up being, I doubt it has that much in common with the original except in title, but that’s what Hollywood has to do these days to turn a profit.