Films Today vs Twenty Years Ago

Some say the film industry is dying.

I say it’s just going through a transition period, where sequels and film adaptions are more common then risks and original ideas. Now, these are not necessarily the only movies being made, it just so happens that these have been grossing the highest recently.

Looking at the ten highest grossing films of 2015, a whopping seven of them are a sequel of a franchise(Star Wars, Jurassic Park, F&F, Marvel, Bond, Mission: Impossible, Hunger Games, Dispicable Me/Minions), four adaptations (The Martian, Hunger Games, technically Avengers and Bond), and two animated flicks(Minions, Inside Out).

Rank Title Distributor Worldwide gross
1 Star Wars: The Force Awakens Disney $2,068,178,225
2 Jurassic World Universal $1,670,400,637
3 Furious 7 $1,516,045,911
4 Avengers: Age of Ultron Disney $1,405,413,868
5 Minions Universal $1,159,398,397
6 Spectre MGM / Columbia $880,674,609
7 Inside Out Disney $857,427,711
8 Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Paramount $682,330,139
9 The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 Lionsgate $653,428,261
10 The Martian 20th Century Fox $630,161,890

If we take a look at the top ten films of 1995, however, we see a different outcome. There are only three franchise films(Die Hard, Bond, Batman), three adaptions(Apollo 13, Jumanji, Casper), and two animated(Toy Store, Pocahontas). This leaves two original top dollar screenplays(Waterworld, Seven).

Rank Title Studio Worldwide gross
1. Toy Story Walt Disney Animation Studios / Pixar $373,554,033
2. Die Hard with a Vengeance 20th Century Fox / Cinergi Pictures $366,101,666
3. Apollo 13 Universal Pictures / Imagine Entertainment $355,237,933
4. GoldenEye Metro-Goldwyn Mayer / United Artists $352,194,034
5. Pocahontas Walt Disney Pictures $346,079,773
6. Batman Forever Warner Bros. / PolyGram $336,529,144
7. Seven New Line Cinema $327,311,859
8. Casper Universal Pictures $287,928,194
9. Waterworld Universal Pictures $264,218,220
10. Jumanji TriStar Pictures $262,797,249

Now, while some film adaptations stray far from their source material and use original story elements (Jumanji, for example), many only mainly use what already exists(Hunger Games, being both an adaptation and a franchise sequel). However, both are being grouped under adaptation. It’s not the worst thing, to adapt an already existing work to the big screen, especially if the original author is involved. But a lot of the time adaptations end up being on popular book series that are going to make money no matter what just because you slap Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings on it, and it’s only gotten worse in recent times. Three movies off of one Hobbit book? FIVE movies based on a fictional textbook from the Harry Potter universe? Come on. There’s at least some merit to a franchise of original content that has both hits and misses: Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Fast and Furious, Mission: Impossible, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc. I for one am quite intrigued to see the continuation of original Bond films, now that there’s almost no Ian Fleming novels left.

But looking at 1995 adaptations, we have Jumanji, based off of a short children’s book with plenty of original story elements, Casper, a well-received darker version of the comics, and Apollo 13, which is basically a dramatization of a real event, though technically based off of the book written by Jim Lovell and Jeffery Kluger. 2015 adaptations have Hunger Games, both an adaptation and part of a franchise where yet again the last book is split into two movies, Avengers, loose comic adaptation and franchise that makes money no matter what, Bond, another loose adaptation, this being the first film not based off of an Ian Fleming novel, and The Martian, a successful adaptation on a not super well known novel — also not a franchise. Only one of 2015’s adaptations is not a franchise, compared to 1995’s adaptations where none of them are part of a franchise. Well, yes, it’s a safe bet that people are more apt to seeing a movie of a franchise they already like, but this is ridiculous.

Another thing to keep in mind when comparing these eras of film, is that the entire moviegoing scene is so much different now. Just look at Toy Story‘s grossing compared to Force Awakens. The Star Wars sequel’s is five and a half times higher! Nowadays people are way more apt to see a movie quite a few times in the theater, this coming from the guy who saw Force Awakens five times in theaters. Also, the inflation of ticket prices probably have have the highest effect on the change in these decade’s grossing.

Year/Ticket Price Tickets Sold Total Box Office Total Inflation
Adjusted Box Office
 1995            $4.35 1,221,825,463 $5,314,941,459 $10,299,988,646
 2015            $8.43 1,340,686,925 $11,301,994,174 $11,301,994,174

Ticket prices have nearly doubled! No wonder Toy Story grossed $373 million, and Force Awakens grossed over $2 billion. Interestingly enough, however, from the table we can see that if inflation from today is applied to ’95’s total box office amount, its about $1 billion off. In addition to ticket prices, and increase in theater quality, there is a way increased load of advertising for films. Films used to get commonly two trailers. Nowadays it’s a lot different. Force Awakens ALONE had four theatrical trailers, even more tv spots, a partnership with Google, multiple convention/expo events, the list goes on and on. Another big example is pretty much every Marvel movie. It’s actually a really interesting process, how Marvel markets their movies. They announce these films almost half a decade early, reveal nothing about them except for major actors, and finally drop a trailer out of the blue on youtube that shatters records, and then they go silent again letting all the fans spark debates and discussions on what they think is gonna happen. Then as we get close to the film’s release, at least two more trailers, numerous tv spots, affiliations with food products, and more. By the time the movie premieres, pretty much everyone knows about it, whether they plan on seeing it or not. We get it, Marvel. You make mostly hits and want money for them. The way how only the biggest movies get this treatment and the rest of them don’t makes this a very unfair development in the film industry.

The film industry isn’t dying, by any means. Hell, they’re making more money then ever. I feel that all of this, adaptations and franchises, won’t necessarily pass, but people will start to demand a higher quality and writers will have more creative freedom. Look at Suicide Squad: Warner Bros. thought that the movie wouldn’t live up to the humor shown in the trailer and forced reshoots. They completely ruined what could’ve been a huge hit! Scenes were moved out of order, so much content was cut, it felt sloppy and bad. Hopefully, things like this won’t be the case for much longer.