Lost in Translation – Wrapping Up 2023

It’s been an interesting year in Hollywood. Two strikes, one by SAG-AFTRA lasting 118 days and one by the Writer’s Guild of America lasting 148 days, delayed production of projects at every studio and streaming service. Anything in the can before May 2023 could be released, but anything needing a reshoot or a rewrite got caught up. Warner Bros. added to the mess by scrapping the release of films ready to go, including Batgirl and Coyote vs Acme. Blockbusters are getting more expensive to film, mostly through the use of post-production CGI to fix problems to avoid a reshoot. Yet, audiences still showed up.

As always, the following come from Box Office Mojo

  1. Barbie – The juggernaut of 2023, based on the popular doll from Mattel.
  2. The Super Mario Bros. Movie – Based on the video game franchise from Nintendo.
  3. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse – Sequel to the animated adaptation, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 – The second sequel to the adaptation of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
  5. Oppenheimer – Adaptation of American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Michael Sherwin, about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb.
  6. The Little Mermaid – Live action adaptation of the animated adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s story.
  7. Avatar: The Way of Water – Sequel to the 2009 film, Avatar.
  8. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – Sequel to Ant-Man, adapted from the Marvel character of the same name.
  9. John Wick: Chapter 4 – The third sequel to the 2014 original film, John Wick.
  10. Sound of Freedom – Controversial film loosely based on actual events, though the organization has QAnon ties and its head, the main character of the film, facing accusations of sexual assault.
  11. Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour – Documentary of Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour, complete with enhanced concert footage.
  12. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny – Fifth of the Indiana Jones series, beginning with the original work, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  13. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One – Seventh of the Mission: Impossible film series based on the TV series of the same name.
  14. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts – The latest installation of the Transformers movie franchise based on the Hasbro toys.
  15. Creed III – Second sequel to Creed, itself a spin-off from the Rocky movies.
  16. Elemental – Original movie from Pixar.
  17. Fast X – The lastest in the The Fast and the Furious franchise, giving the film a guaranteed audience.
  18. Five Nights at Freddy’s – Based on the video game of the same name.
  19. The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes – a prequel to the Hunger Games films based on the books of the same name.
  20. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish – Sequel to a spin-off of Shrek, itself a parody of fairy tales.

Adaptations and sequels rule the top twenty at the box office. Marvel has three titles in the list, and one more, The Marvels at the twenty-eighth place. DC’s highest superhero is The Flash at twenty-third, followed by Blue Beetle at thirty-second. Avatar: The Way of Water finished tenth in last year’s box office, which indicates the film could have placed higher if it hadn’t been released in December.

The breakdown – there were three original movies in the top twenty, one fewer than last year. Two films were sequels to a spin-off of an original film, with Creed III being spun off from the Rocky movies and Puss in Boots spun off from Shrek. There were five direct adaptations, being based on a previous work; The Little Mermaid is a live action adaptation of Disney’s animated adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story, so it gets added as one of the five direct adaptations despite the chain. The rest are sequels, with six of original works and five of adaptations. Outside the Eighties and Nineties, this is normal. Audiences prefer the familiar.

Barbie dominated the box office, and thanks to the Barbieheimer meme, Oppenheimer received a boost and boosted Barbie back. Superheroes weren’t as dominant, with only three in the top twenty, down from six last year. Franchises, like the Marvel superheroes and the Fast and the Furious series, were well represented. Audiences appreciate the familiar.

This past year, 2023, should have been a rebuilding year as life normalized after the pandemic of 2021-2022. The two strikes threw a monkey wrench into the idea, forcing studios to postpone or cancel projects. At the same time, the cost to produce a blockbuster grew. Studios got into the habit of sending films to digital artists to clean up things, resulting in overtime and rising costs. Prior to CGI advances, a film eventually reached a point of good enough, where more work, and thus cost, resulted in little extra gain, either visually or financially. With CGI, directors can continue to tweak long after shooting is finished, and studios are willing to spend. At the same time, studios are still risk adverse, so blockbusters are still adaptations.

The mid-range budget movie, though, is the loser. Advertising has changed over the past decade. While television is still around, it isn’t dominant. Same with radio. Getting out word of a new film now means hunting down where the audience is, whether on streaming, on social media, or on traditional media. Blockbusters create word of mouth as links trailers get passed around. Smaller, original films don’t have the same impact.

The ramifications will be covered next week. Hollywood is reaching a crossroad, and studios might not be prepared for the fallout.

This article was originally published at THE REMAKE ZONE.

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