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.