On both the big and small screens, fans may be seeing a resurgence of familiar titles and franchises. Popular TV programs and films that aired a while ago (like ‘The X-Files’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘Roseanne’ and even ‘The Twilight Zone’) are being remade, revived and rebooted. But what is the reason behind this? And are there really more of them than ever before?
First of all, it is important to define what a reboot, remake or revival is. The reboot of a certain show can have familiar characters but with a new storyline, such as ‘Star Wars Episode VII: the Force Awakens’. Remakes are older storylines with newer actors, like 2016’s ‘The Magnificent Seven’. Meanwhile, the term “revival” is mostly used for TV shows, like ‘The X-Files’, that brings back the original main cast of a show for a new run even years after its original run has ended. At the heart of all of these is a category of human property known as intellectual property or IP.
In show business, IP is any character, storyline or franchise owned by a studio or a production company. They can also be scripts and book adaptations that can be adapted into a film or program. Most IPs are highly-acclaimed or popular works that are proven to be successful.
Risk aversion is one of the main reasons the media keeps rebooting, remaking and reviving films and shows. Production costs a lot, so studios and production companies would rather invest in something that they know will pay off. By banking on content where the audience already know the characters, the plot and the story, the risk of flopping with an original idea can be averted.
Viewers are already familiar with an IP. If a producers reboot an IP of a film that succeeded in 1987, they would already have something well-known to work on. Not only is the content familiar to the audience, it is a proven success, as well.
Studios nowadays may be more comfortable in putting the reboot, remake or revival label on their films or programs. But just because they are being marketed as resurgences now, does not mean that they were not around before.
Take the James Bond franchise, for example. Before Daniel Craig is Agent 007, the producers merely recast whoever was Bond at the time. The same goes for the Batman role filled by Val Kilmer and George Clooney. In fact, we had many different Batmen in the 1990s, but these films were not advertised as reboots. So, despite such films abundantly existing before, these terms may not have been as widely used as they are now.
Marketing something as a remake, reboot or revival of an iconic IP can appeal to more demographics, too. Fans from older generations that enjoyed the original content will likely want to see it and the producers would only need to make it more appealing to a younger demographic. One of the ways they can do this is by making the setting more recent, writing a storyline that is currently relevant or employing popular actors.
Even before big studios and production companies started marketing revivals, remakes and reboots, films and TV programs like these have already existed. As the budgets for films and TV shows are increasing, we may expect producers to continue relying on intellectual property.