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Is Film Originality Lost?

These days, taking a trip to the movies often means having to choose between sequels, remakes and reboots of old movies, or yet another film based on a comic or a book. Original movies are more likely to be found in indie film houses or film festivals than your average movie theater. Of the 65 movies Rotten Tomatoes lists as their most anticipated of 2019, only about 17 percent are completely original. The other 83 percent are all sequels, remakes, based on outside material or some combo of the three.

According to PLNU Media Operations Manager and adjunct professor Rick Moncauskas, this is mostly due to financial reasons and investors’ aversion to risk when it comes to their movies.

“If one movie did good at the box office, a sequel will probably do close to as good. It’s much easier to make money on a sequel of something that did well or has an audience already. A lot of independent movies don’t make their money back,” Moncauskas said.

Junior film major Natalie Martyn, who has made several original short films in her time at PLNU, makes an effort to see more independent films but finds it can be difficult in theaters.

“I definitely prefer to watch original movies and more independent stuff, but a lot of the things recently have been sequels or remakes, so that’s just what’s available” Martyn said.

For people like Martyn, there remains a desire to see indie movies. Recently, the studio A24 has been producing movies like “Ladybird” and “Moonlight” that have gained more widespread attention and viewership outside of the independent festivals, with both being nominated for best picture at the Oscars, and “Moonlight” actually winning in 2016. According to Moncauskas, this may be in part because of a growing disinterest in seeing the same sort of thing in theaters repeatedly.

“Every once in a while, someone will get thrown into the mix who made a good movie, it’s an independent, but it has to get an audience. The indie movies happen when people get bored with what is going on,” Moncauskas said.

This lack of originality is not confined to blockbuster movies. Less than 10 percent of Playbill’s announced upcoming Broadway shows are original, with most of them being plays, while most musicals are based on movies or books or using already existing music. Similarly, of U.S. Gamer’s 25 most anticipated games of 2019, six are completely new concepts.

Based on audiences’ responses to indie films like “Moonlight,” it’s evident that movie-lovers want to see more originality on the big screen. As smaller indie studios like A24 gain more traction and viewership, there may be an increase in the availability of original films at movie theaters, which is great news for film enthusiasts everywhere.


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Marlee Drake

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