The Coveted “Original Idea”: Hollywood is not a Lost Cause   

At its core, Hollywood is a business.

And I know; it sounds pretty cynical, especially coming from someone who utilizes a majority of their blog posts to preach the power of cinema as an art form above all else. This opinion of cinema is one that I will always argue in favor of, but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize the commercializing nature of Hollywood, especially today. As I said, it’s a business and a multi-billion-dollar business at that. Many films that saturate the market today are constructed with a clear goal in mind: profit. This is why we are seeing all of the familiar reboots, sequels, franchises, etc. These blockbuster films are usually securing the profit that studios are chasing. Many critics make reference to these franchise films to support a narrative that Hollywood no longer makes original films. But I would argue that the existence and success of original films and franchise films are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I think they currently co-exist in modern Hollywood, and I think there’s a silver lining in that.

For this reason, I cannot agree with the argument that Hollywood is just simply “out of ideas”. It’s more complicated than that. Original films still exist, it’s just that people are not watching them. It all comes back to the financial aspect of the business. Original movies do not appeal to as wide of an audience as some of the more well-known, pre-existing properties. As such, they have not advertised as aggressively, and they do not perform as well at the box office. Realistically, I don’t see this trend changing anytime soon, so as a consumer I think I am left with few options. I could be upset about the types of movies that dominate the box office, or I could accept it and sit back and enjoy both categories: the original and the not-so-original.

It may seem like there is a bit of defeat in my tone. As in, there’s nothing I can do about this, so I give up. This is not exactly the case; I just think it’s okay to consume all types of movies. The original, the non-original, the franchises – none of them are going away anytime soon. I think oftentimes there is even room for overlap and intersection. Sequels and reboots can still harness original and thought-provoking ideas or themes. Conversely, sometimes a seemingly original idea will tie into a larger series. Split (dir. M. Night Shyamalan, 2017) was hailed for its creative characters and original horror/thriller plot. At the end of the film, it is revealed to be a part of Shyamalan’s larger cinematic universe based on Unbreakable (dir. M. Night Shyamalan, 2000), without relying on it.

I think it’s worth fighting to create, promote, and preserve new and exciting ideas. But I also don’t think it’s as much of an uphill battle as people claim. If you are part of an audience that is searching for a more original concept or uniquely styled film, you can still seek those out. With the evolution of streaming, I believe it’s easier to find those types of films now more than ever. Streaming has provided an entirely new medium for original films. Streaming does not possess the same financial risks that a theatrical release might have. Given that it is safer, we are seeing more instances of films released on streaming services with unique formats, length, story, etc. Filmmakers are able to realize complete creative visions that are (for the most part) unencumbered by usual studio interference.

The fact that Hollywood is a business should not be that hard of a pill to swallow, because it always has been. Even in the so-called bygone eras of original films, when the “classics” were made, Hollywood was still a business. Sequels and remakes were still being churned out, perhaps just not at the rate that they are today. So really, not much has changed in Hollywood. There are still original ideas out there, we just have to find them. If studios recognize that there is an audience for those types of films, they will make an effort to produce more of them. But until that happens, there is still a lot to enjoy.