Something that is interesting to notice is that it seems that movie ideas can come in cycles. Some cycles last longer than others, but they do not last forever. This concept stems from the fact that it seems that over certain time periods you will see almost the exact same concept show up in a bunch of different movies from different studios. Often you will see one or two that stand out and then the others will have fallen flat. Depending on how well the good ones do the cycle might last years or just a year.
Part of what happens during these cycles is that after watching the trailers it feels like it is all various levels of the same movie. Why do some of these cycles last longer than others? Why do the cycles seem to happen in the first place?
Why Cycles Seem to Happen
Now the big thing about movie idea cycles is that it can feel like it is happening, but there is nothing official to say that it actually is except for noticing a lot of the same types of movies coming out. The question then comes up: why do a lot of similar themed movies seem to come out at the same time?
Some of our thought process revolves around a couple theories. One is thinking of how the studios find and get scripts. Could they hear one script and don’t want to spend the money for it so they make their own? Or do they hear about another movie studio making one movie and they decide to make one their own way? This definitely seems to happen sometimes where in a year or two period the almost-same-movie will come out in different variations. A good example of this is from 2010 when A-Team, The Losers, and The Expendables came out. Watching the trailers it can especially feel like they are extremely similar movies that all came out in the same year.
Then there are the times that a movie or franchise becomes really popular and suddenly it is a race to see what can be next in that same genre. That especially feels like the case with Hunger Games, which came out in 2012. Then suddenly it seemed like there was a race to try and find the next young adult adventure story that would make money (Divergent, Maze Runner, Mortal Instruments). The studios are trying to monetize off of the popularity of one franchise to find the next one that will fulfill that same role. Then if enough of the movies do not do well the cycle kind of dies down for a while until the next thing comes up.
Varying Lengths of the Cycles
Sometimes a cycle really just seems to be a year or two and other times it can be almost a decade. It really depends on how specific the idea or concept seems to be and how many stories people come up with over the same period of time. The other piece that is important is how good or popular the various movies seem to be and I think it helps if it actually moves beyond just the movies.
For instance there was a point where Zombies were everywhere and they were huge. A lot of different movies came out and out of it we got The Walking Dead, which is still going. The general zombie theme seems to have died down, but there was definitely a wave where it was huge.
Then every few years there seems to be multiple movies that come out of the same theme or two movies that are way too close such as Friends With Benefits and No Strings Attached. Even though this is just two movies, they both came out in the same year. There were probably some others that were similar, but these two were so blatant it was difficult not to notice. At the same time after these couple of movies the idea really did just sort of die after that. Even though the studios seem to be following the same general script it still takes a good movie to succeed.
Not About the Themes
The thing that I find so funny about the repeating themes and ideas is that I don’t think it actually matters. Now I really like various monster movies, but it is not just about any monster movie – the story still has to be good. There has to be something compelling with either the actors, the direction, or something that actually makes the movie worth watching. The Hunger Games movies were so good and almost everything that came afterwards just did not do as well financially, but some of it is that those movies just were not nearly as good.
The studios want to make money so it makes sense if they notice something becoming popular that they try and get out as much as possible. At the same time the formula for what will do well at the box office or with DVD sales is not a simple formula. There are a lot of factors that make a successful movie and sometimes what makes the most money is honestly dumbfounding.
Come back Sunday for this week’s podcast where we dive into the biggest of these cycles right now – Superheroes!