1) Black Panther – adaptation of a comic.
2) Avengers: Infinity War – sequel to an adaptation of a comic.
3) Incredibles 2 – sequel to an original movie.
4) Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – sequel to an adaptation of a novel.
5) Deadpool 2 – sequel to an adaptation of a comic.
6) Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch– adaptation of a children’s book.
7) Mission: Impossible – Fallout – sequel to an adaptation of a TV series
8) Ant-Man and the Wasp – sequel to an adaptation of a comic
9) Solo: A Star Wars Story – sequel/prequel to an original movie.
10) Venom – adaptation of a comic
The first original film on Box Office Mojo’s list is A Quiet Place, coming in at twelfth place. The first remake, A Star Is Born, comes in at eleventh. If people are getting tired of reboots, remakes, and adaptations, the box office isn’t reflecting it. Audiences are still turning out for the adaptations. The breakdown of the top ten includes seven sequels, up from five last year, and five that can trace back to a comic book, down from six last year. The past year was slightly more literary, with two movies that can trace back to books, up from one in 2016.
The takeaway – superheroes aren’t going anywhere yet. Black Panther tapped into an audience overlooked in the past and succeeded, opening the door for more works not featuring white male leads, much as Wonder Woman did last year. This may a signal that Marvel’s Captain Marvel and Valiant’s Faith will find their own audiences and give Marvel Studios the room to go ahead with films featuring characters like the Falcon and Spectrum.
It can be helpful to take a look at the bottom ten movies, again from Box Office Mojo:
10) Henchmen – adaptation of a short film, “Henchmen: Ill Suited” (short film)), released December 7.
9) Half Brothers – very little info found, but may be original.
8) Invisible Hands – documentary.
7) Gangsterdam – French-made original movie.
6) The Breadwinner – original movie, released through Theatrical On Demand.
5) TVTV: Video Revolutionaries – documentary.
4) That Way Madness Lies – documentary, released December 14.
3) Higher Power – original.
2) The Legend of Hallowaiian – original.
1) Realms – original.
The catch with these films is that they were all in limited release, which constrained how much they could earn. The Legend of the Hallowaiian was released to the most theatres, 20, and just for one day as a way to promote its DVD release. Documentaries are usually of limited interest, as are foreign films. The Breadwinner had an unusual means of release, relying on the audience to do the work of getting the film into a theatre. Quality may not be the issue with where the movies fell in the yearly standing. However, there is only just one adaptation. Of the rest, there are three documentaries, five original works, and one that’s unknown but probably original. Adaptations tend to have initial costs, mainly licensing, that are needed up front that a larger studio can front that a smaller one might not. The one adaptation, Henchman, was based on the director’s own original short film, cutting out the middlemen.
Adaptations aren’t going away anytime soon. The audience is still there for them. Studios will bank on that. Superheroes are also popular. There is the possibility that an original superhero movie could be a breakout hit, but it’d have to follow the Marvel method of being a superhero movies crossed with another genre. Otherwise, original works will have to bring something new to theatres, something that an adaptation can’t.
With the New Year looming in the distance, it’s time to take a look at what can be expected next year. The box office this year shows that there is one thing for certain that audiences will see in theatres.
Not only are adaptations not going away, they are staples for theatrical releases. A look at Box Office Mojo’s year end tallies shows that the first non-sequel, non-adaptation film is at number 12 on the list – /Dunkirk/, which is based on historical events. The first original film not based on anything is Get Out, Jordan Peele’s horror film, at number 14. The top ten are sequels, adaptations, or sequels of adaptations. Adaptations still pull in an audience, so studios aren’t going to start making original blockbusters just yet. The risk is still too high for them to try something original.
That’s just the silver screen, though. Netflix is having success with both its Marvel series and its own original works like Stranger Things. The more traditional broadcasters are having success with orignal series, though they are also airing remakes, such as Hawaii Five-0 and Macgyver, and adaptations, like Gotham and Lethal Weapon. The nature of television means that it is less expensive to fund original works than to license an existing one, and certain genres are good for formulaic approaches that still work despite decades of being in use. Legal dramas and police procedurals are standards; new series can put their own twist on the formula and still maintain an audience. Thus, NCIS, a military police procedural; Law & Order: SVU, a mix of legal drama and police procedural made popular by the parent show, Law & Order; and even Lethal Weapon, a mix of police procedural, buddy cop comedy, and family drama*. Television hasn’t been the medium to expect innovation from for several decades, but with online streaming becoming the competition, broadcasters will have to look to new ways to tell new stories. The format of TV allows for more depth than a movie while still providing what the audience wants.
Superhero adaptations aren’t going away yet. While Warner stumbled this past year, with Justice League underperforming following similar performances by 2016’s Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, Marvel’s output is still going strong. Warner’s Wonder Woman also did well, so the problem with the rest of the DC movies may be inherent in just those films. Marvel characters all did well, no matter the studio producing the movie. With Disney seeing great returns on their investment, there will be more Marvel characters on the silver screen in the coming year. Warner has several more DC movies lined up, though there may be tweaking. Valiant and Image are looking at getting their share of the superhero box office, adding more adaptations to the mix. It’s hard to tell if superheroes are a bubble or will be the replacement for the Western right now.
There is still a demand for adaptations of popular works. Until audiences are tired of only adaptations, original works will have to find ways of getting into the popular subconscious in new ways. Fortunately, online streaming needs even more content than even broadcast networks can use, and reruns only go so far. Watch for online content to become the next big thing to be adapted.
* Arguably, the Lethal Weapon TV series is about two family men, one of whom has lost his and is suffering as a result.