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Hollywood’s Summer of Remakes, Reboots and Sequels

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What do The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spiderman, Total Recall and The Bourne Legacy have in common?

They're all based on widely successful movie franchises that Hollywood studios hope will draw Americans back to movie theaters this summer. Comic book heroes again reign supreme at the box office but the bigger trend at the movies has been a push to reboot or remake classic films. According to RottenTomatoes.com, less than half of the movies released this summer have been original story ideas.

Are Hollywood writers and producers lacking creativity these days?

Not necessarily says RottenTomatoes.com's Matt Atchity. Sequels, prequels and remakes offer studios a safety net and a guarantee of big profits for Tinseltown's major players.

"It's the studios best interest to use an idea that people already are familiar with," Atchity says in the attached clip. "And if you go with something that is a remake or reboot…or a sequel to something that people already like, that gets name recognition out there. And it's a big step on the way to marketing your movie correctly."

The Dark Knight Trilogy and The Amazing Spiderman are the best examples of a Hollywood "reboot." Directors Christopher Nolan and Marc Webb took the original concept and put their individual touches on the comic books by adding new cast members and story lines. The new installment of the James Bond movies starring Daniel Craig also provided a jolt to a longstanding movie series that had lost fans over the years.

But rebooting or remaking a popular movie does not always signify a desire by movie executives to jumpstart or refresh a dying franchise. Sony Pictures chose to remake director Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy -- which earned more than $2.5 billion at the global box office and starred Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst -- just five years after Spider-Man 3 hit theaters because of technicalities. The Walt Disney Co. (DIS) bought Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion in 2009, giving Disney access to Marvel's vast array of comic books characters. Sony reportedly could have lost the rights to Spidey if it did not produce another movie in the series before the rights expired. (Marvel owns the spiderweb-shooting super hero along with comic book properties The Incredible Hulk, The Fantastic Four and X-Men).

The recent proliferation of reboots and remakes has actually been a studio strategy for the past few years as movie attendance has dropped and lower ticket sales have cut into profits. Last summer Walt Disney Animation Studios chief technical officer Andy Hendrickson said Disney was focused on movies that had previously scored positively with viewers, a strategy that places more emphasis on lucrative movie franchises.

"Profit equals the ability to capture more than the average share of viewers," he said. "A tentpole film is one where you can seed the desire to see the film to everyone in every distribution channel. It's the only kind of film you can spend $100 million marketing."

So far movie audiences have shown little aversion -- if any -- to Hollywood's summer of reboots and remakes. The Dark Knight Rises grossed $188.3 million this past weekend, bringing its domestic and overseas total to $547.3 million. The Amazing Spiderman has raked in more than $655 million worldwide. Next year's Man of Steel — Zack Snyder's new take on the Superman franchise — has fans already counting down the days until it hits theaters.

Here are the most profitable reboots according to Boxoffice.com:

  • 1. The Amazing Spider-Man (projected -- $700 million gross vs. $305, combined budget)
  • 2. Casino Royale ($594.2m gross vs. $210m budget)
  • 3. Batman Begins ($372.7m gross vs. $200m budget)
  • 4. Star Trek ($385m gross vs. $215m budget)
  • 5. X-Men: First Class ($352.6m gross vs. $200m budget)

Here's how Boxoffice.com calculated the above figures: "Combined budget" refers to the sum of the production budget and estimated cost of prints and advertising. All references to budgets include both of these figures unless otherwise noted. In addition, all "gross" figures -- unless otherwise stated -- refer to worldwide theatrical box office revenue.

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