Although it undoubtedly feels like all we ever report anymore is news of ’80s remakes, the reality is — assuming my research is accurate — that there have only been 14 studio remakes of ’80s film or cinematic adaptations of ’80s television shows in the last decade. A quick look at the numbers, however, suggests why exactly there are so many more currently in development — it’s almost a no-lose situation for smart studios that know how to budget their productions appropriately. Of the 14 remakes and television adaptations released so far, 12 have either broken even or made a profit, only one lost money, and the jury is still out on The A-Team.
However, with one exception — the Karate Kid remake, released this weekend — the box-office returns for ’80s remakes have been fairly soft, which is why there hasn’t been a ton of copy devoted to their success. However, they are profitable in their initial release, which means that — for most of the titles — receipts from DVD sales and rentals is just gravy.
Here are the numbers, so far (the first number is box office total, and the second is the production budget).
1. Karate Kid (Projected: $165 million) ($40 million) = $125 million profit
2. Friday the 13th ($65 million) ($18 million) = $47 million profit
3. Clash of the Titans ($161 million) ($125 million) = $36 million profit
4. My Bloody Valentine ($51 million) ($15 million) = $36 million profit
5. The Dukes of Hazzard ($80 million) ($50 million) = $30 million profit
6. Nightmare on Elm Street ($63 million) ($35 million) = $28 million profit
7. Prom Night ($43 million) ($20 million) = $23 million profit
8. The Fog ($29 million) ($18 million) = $11 million profit
9. The Stepfather ($29 million) ($20 million) = $9 million profit
10. Fame ($22 million) ($18 million) = $4 million profit
11. The Hitcher ($16 million) ($15 million est). = $1 million profit
12. Sorority Row ($12 million) ($12 million) = $0 profit
13. The A-Team (Projected $75 million) ($110 million) = ($35 million profit)
14. Miami Vice ($63 million) ($135 million) = ($72 million profit)
What can we deduce from these numbers? Generally, that the profit margin is slim enough not to warrant a sequel — there has yet to be a sequel to a ’80s remake (if you don’t include the straight-to-DVD sequel to Dukes), although that will change, as the Hollywood Cog has exclusively revealed to us that a Karate Kid sequel is already in development. (There are also sequels to Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street in various stages of development, although it is not certain that either will ever come to fruition).
We can also see that television adaptations are not safe bets: Miami Vice was a spectacular failure; The Dukes of Hazzard failed to meet expectations; and The A-Team will likely only make a profit on DVD, if at all. That probably means certain death for the long-in development Magnum P.I. movie, and little box-office hope for Jonah Hill’s currently in development 21 Jump Street movie. We’ll probably never see the big-screen versions of “The Greatest American Hero,” “T.J. Hooker,” or “MacGyver” currently in development, either. Fortunately, that also means that “Airwolf,” “Knight Rider,” and “Manimal” will also be left alone (as well as the ’70s “CHiPs”).
However, the ’80s horror movie remakes will likely continue, unabated, as long as they continue to turn out a profit (see Fright Night, for example). The success of Karate Kid, moreover, also bodes well for other remakes of ’80s family films, like the Short Circuit film in development. The long-in-development Footloose remake will likely get a huge boost by the success of Karate Kid, and you can bet that a Who Framed Roger Rabbit? remake will be soon to follow. A Dirty Dancing remake also seems inevitable, and the in-development remakes of Monster Squad and Red Dawn look to be future successes, if MGM can release Red Dawn, given its financial difficulties.