Yes, We Get It—Why Are All Hollywood Movies the Same?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years, the complete dominance of superhero movies—whether this be from Disney’s giant Marvel or Warner’s DC—has permeated the box office, and raked in millions.

Today, films are a business. They always were, don’t get me wrong. But the monetary potential enhanced by large studio conglomerates has caused franchises to dominate, and original films to take a sideline. Consider this graphic.

This is a bit outdated, but many of the films listed did make it to the cinema in 2016. With franchises, there is a unique potential to make profits without a ceiling. Consider merchandise, tie-in video games, clothing, etc., and then add in the demand for sequels and spin-offs.

The big studios know what works. The audience wants to be entertained, and the studio wants to make money. Risks are a huge no-no in the movie business. Sequels and remakes are a sure-fire way to make money—and that’s what they do.  This year, the amount of sequels and remakes outnumbered the “original” films. And you can completely forget about independent studios. They’d have better luck on Netflix.

Out of the top 20, eight were made by Disney, three by Warner Bros., five by 20th Century Fox, two by Universal, and one each by Paramount and Sony Pictures. Out of the top 20, 13 were already established franchises, reboots or sequels.

These top-grossing movies have no bearing on the most critically-acclaimed movies of the year. While the Academy Awards do still try and reward original movies, those movies do not do as well overall. Take the Best Picture winner of 2015, Spotlight, which was the 91st biggest grossing movie of 2015.

The large studios think they know what the audience wants to see. And in a sense, they do—just look at all the superhero movies in the top 20. I mean, since 2001 Spiderman has been rebooted twice. That’s ridiculous. But in this, we have to ask what this means for the future of films. If the majority of the movie theatre industry is dominated by large, expensive distributors and large, oligopolistic studios, what happens to the filmmakers that are independent?

Streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon have opened up a market to independent studios wishing to distribute their film without having to compete with the big six studios. Streaming services, like the big studios, will distribute films that they think their subscribers will want to see, not necessarily what the film represents or what it means as a whole. In that, Netflix and Amazon are offering bigger and better offers for independent films. As Indiewire writes, “Big tech companies investing in film could be bad news for the industry in the long term: They don’t necessarily care about the holistic health of the film world, but certainly do care about their own profitability.”

Hollywood films themselves are also getting more and more expensive. The effects are bigger; the marketing more prominent; the cast more star-studded. They’re not better, per se. No, they continue to be that comfortable “average” that permeates the Hollywood industry. But reading this, please think: are we comfortable with this “average?" Time and time again, audiences go and see the next big sequel, reboot or franchise has hit the big screens, only to come out and forget about it the next day.

Are we to be comfortable in our complacency? We shouldn’t forget what makes film great: films that push the edge of the norm and really challenge their audiences. In other words, great films need risks. And the Hollywood movie industry has forgotten this in the name of profit.