When the movie "Jurassic Park" premiered 22 years ago, it was a wild fantastical tale that packed theaters. If you'll recall it was the story of a rich philanthropist who hired a team of scientists to clone dinosaurs for his private Central American amusement park.
It predictably led to disaster when the beasts turned on the humans but made for great science fiction entertainment. The film grossed over $900 million worldwide.
Even though the premise of bringing back long-extinct man-eating beasts was proven to be a horrible idea in "Jurassic Park," the scientists didn't learn their lesson because they were at it again in "Jurassic Park: The Lost World" in 1997 and then again in "Jurassic Park III" in 2001, both with similar results.
Surely by now every geneticist on the planet knows not to go playing around with dinosaur DNA, but apparently not since next week Hollywood releases "Jurassic World," the third sequel, and the mayhem starts all over again.
Insanity is said to be doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. Maybe the movie's scientists are insane, but what about the people filling the seats? They kinda have to know how all of this is going to turn out.
Chris Hansen, independent filmmaker and chair of the film and digital media department in Baylor University’s College of Arts & Sciences, says decisions about which films to make come down to marketing.
Recycling is profitable
“One of the biggest considerations in determining which movies get made, from the studio’s perspective, is marketing,” Hansen said. “That process is made much easier if the intellectual property already exists in the minds of the general public. People know who Batman is. People know who The Avengers are. Half or more of the marketing work is done. When the intellectual property is original, the studio’s marketing arm has to spend a lot more time and money acquainting viewers with the concept and generating interest.”
And that's why you're going to see even more cinematic retreads in the future. Reboots and sequels to "Ghostbusters," "Point Break" and "Independence Day" are in the works.
Disney is even bringing back Harrison Ford as a 70-year old Hans Solo to do yet another sequel to the original "Star Wars," in time for a Christmastime release.
Blaming the marketing
When an original movie doesn't do as well as expected at the box office, Hansen says the studios don't blame a bad script or clumsy directing. Rather, they see it as another example of how hard it is to pack theaters when the public is unfamiliar with the story.
In that world 1962's "To Kill A Mockingbird" and 1967's "The Graduate" might never have been made. But if they were made today, it's not entirely certain moviegoers would be all that interested in original material.
“They say one thing, but they often vote differently with their box office dollars,” Hansen said. “This sometimes comes down to an economic decision for audience members. They have less disposable income than they used to, so they see fewer movies in the theater. And if they’re going to have to choose between several movies to see in an actual theater, they’ll often choose the one that has more spectacle.”
Of course, the entertainment world is a very different place than it was in the 1960s. Today, movie theaters have huge competition from cable TV and on-demand streaming, where plenty of quality, original programming is available. Hansen says movie theaters have to play to their strengths and that means showing movies that are long on special effects, even if they're short on story.
“There’s a feeling that it’s more ‘worth it’ to see something like that on the big screen, and that smaller movies won’t suffer from being seen on the TV in your living room,” Hansen said.
Meanwhile, studio execs are far from insane. They know producing the same thing over and over again usually provides the same result. At least they hope it does.