Movie originality and success  NOV 17 2009

Prompted by my post about how few non-adapted/sequel/franchise films there are on the list of the top-grossing films of the 2000s (9 out of 50), kottke.org reader Keith took a look at the Best Picture Oscar nominees for the decade and noticed that the percentage of original properties was actually lower (7 out of 45). From his email:

This leaves 7 that are original. Gladiator, Gosford Park, Lost in Translation, Crash, Babel, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, and Michael Clayton.

You'll note that 7/45 (15.556%) is worse than 9/50 (18%). So it seems that the box office appreciates originality more than the Academy. Take from this what you will. I might suggest that this is a poor way to truly gauge originality, as the top 50 box office grossers of the decade is a pretty high bar (500 million+), and seems to demand some kind of familiarity in order to attract the rapid widespread viewing needed for a big theatrical run. Alternately, it builds into the argument that most creativity is follow-on. I would venture a guess that if we dove deeper, into say, every movie that made at least $100 million in the decade, the ratio of original properties would be a bit more palatable.

Thanks, Keith! Also interesting is a comparison between the top grossing films of the 2000s and those for the 1990s and the 1980s. You don't have to delve too far to see how much has changed. Of the top 15 films in the 1990s, 7 are original properties: Independence Day, The Lion King, Sixth Sense, Armageddon, Home Alone, Ghost, and Twister. For the 1980s, a consensus on the top 10 grossing films is difficult to come by, but using the Wikipedia one yields 5 original properties out of the top 10: ET, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, and Back to the Future (other lists I saw included Top Gun and Rain Man but also Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (adapted)).

Clearly sequels, adaptations, and franchises ruled in the 2000s much more than in the 1990s or 1980s. But if you go back to the 1970s, only 2 or 3 of 10 top-grossing films are original: Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and perhaps The Sting. So maybe the 2000s were a return to old ways for Hollywood?

Read more posts on kottke.org about:
movies   The 2000s

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