To say that Hollywood is inundated with sequels and remakes would be something of an understatement. Nowadays, original stories are few and far between, ditched in favor of sequels and superhero franchises. Every once in awhile though, a movie will release that challenges the status quo of franchise filmmaking. Before this last weekend, it was James Cameron’s Avatar, which to this day, still stands as the highest grossing movie of all time. Until Pixar’s latest smash hit, it also held the record for the biggest weekend box office for any original film.
Inside Out, the family-friendly story of emotions personified inside the head of an 11 year-old, debuted to a mind-blowing $91 million in its wide release. As an original script penned by the creative minds over at Pixar, it stands alone as the biggest such box office take of all time for an opening weekend. In doing so, it stands alone in a sea of sequels and remakes as a beacon of the potential for screenwriters penning new stories. Most importantly though, it’s a well-written script in the hands of a competent studio that shows us massive selling potential if it’s done the right way.
While all this may be true, there’s a flipside to that argument. Yes, Inside Out debuted as the biggest original release ever. And yet still, it came in second overall for that same weekend to Jurassic World. What it tells us is that even the biggest original film opening in history couldn’t beat a sequel that was in its second week in theaters. No matter how huge something like Inside Out gets, there will always be a franchise sequel or reboot around to overshadow it. In turn, it makes the success of Pixar’s latest seem more like an exception that proves the rule rather than a trend in the direction away from sequels.
That’s not to say that Hollywood shouldn’t be pursuing original ideas. If Inside Out proved anything, it’s that there’s still value to be had outside of places like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But if a studio has two scripts on its desk, one an original and another a sequel, they’re going to look at Jurassic World topping the biggest original release ever, and pick the latter without a second thought. Yes, the film industry needs more compelling original efforts. But as it stands now, very few outside of Pixar are willing to go out on a limb when pumping out Transformers sequels keeps financiers fat and happy.
Simply put, Inside Out‘s successful release was a double-edged sword. On one hand, it showed the true potential for movies of its kind in a world where similar success stories are few and far between. On the other, even beating Avatar‘s opening weekend box office numbers wasn’t enough to propel it past the fourth installment in a 20-plus year-old franchise. Despite the fact that it’s fairly clear Inside Out is the superior movie creatively, the only thing investors and studio heads see here are the cold hard numbers.
The truth of the matter is that Pixar will continue doing what they do, and the rest of Hollywood will do the same for themselves. Sequels will get pumped out accordingly for as long as they’re making people money. And while original ideas like Inside Out sometimes make it big, even a $91 million opening might not be enough to make it the new rule of the land.
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