Why You Should Be Excited About Movie Reboots… Economically

My friend grumbled as I told him a rumor that Ben Affleck was going to be writing, directing, and starring in a stand-alone batman sequel. I expect to hear a lot more grumbles, from myself included, in the coming months and years until it is finally released. But as I think about it, I shouldn’t be grumbling, nor should you even if you’re as unthrilled as many are about seeing more Bat-Fleck. At least not from an economic perspective.

Don’t worry, I won’t drop too many numbers, figures, or equations on you because it’s unnecessary. My argument here needs little of those because of one simple fact: movie reboots are almost always profitable. Yet that’s the focus of most complaints I hear: Hollywood executives are just throwing money at things that will make them richer, things that people will go and see no matter how bad they are.

Think about that for a second. We are complaining about a business investing into things that will make money. The idea behind this complaint is, of course, that we want to see them shed light on original ideas, new and exciting ventures that will leave us satisfied. But new and exciting don’t always make money, special effects and new technology aside. Just look at White House Down, an original movie that flopped badly enough for Sony to blame it as a chief contributor to a $200 million quarterly loss back in 2013.

New concepts are high risk, and the reward often doesn’t match that risk. Why not just throw money into a franchise like Transformers that you know people will see? The latest entry in the franchise got an 18%from Rotten Tomatoes critics, and only about 50% of audiences liked it. Yet, it grossed about $1.1 billion worldwide, a financial and economic success.

But why should this excite you?

Forget that you care about the quality of movies in Hollywood for a moment. Pretend, if you will, that you can go back to the classic movies of your younger years and are content, satisfied with them alone and nothing more. This means that whatever drivel is appearing in theaters no longer bothers you.

Now consider this.

The film industry, that evil empire ruled by yacht-owning executives and overpaid superstars, employs thousands upon thousands of regular people to provide the movies you love to hate. According a 2013 analysisby the Motion Picture Association of America, they supported 1.9 million jobs, provided 660,000 jobs of their own, paid $47 billion in wages, and produced work for over 330,000 businesses.

Yes, the big names make ridiculous amounts of money, but there is so much more that goes on behind the scenes involving thousands of people like you and me. They might be marketers, boom operators, set designers, lawyers, accountants, stuntmen, and the list goes on. These people are in turn able to buy homes, cars, groceries, computers, furniture, hockey equipment for their children, etc.

Money circulates in a prosperous economy. Creating a small number of industry jobs in a community leads to more jobs in order to support the needs of these original workers, from those at grocery stores and utilities companies to ones at hospitals and universities. The more secure the industry jobs are, the more secure the jobs are for those who surround and provide for day-to-day needs. That’s why the American steel industry, for example, worries about whether companies who need steel are buying from them or importing. It’s not just about the steel workers in places like Pittsburgh; it’s about the communities that support those workers and what they will do if steel jobs disappear.

A country’s economy does best when its businesses are able to provide goods and services that people want because that means profits, and profits mean jobs and greater financial security to the average-Joe American. When Hollywood executives are choosing reboots because of their profitability, they are making the resulting jobs more stable, and that stability has a meaningful influence on a lot more than just the actors in the movies or even the workers who make those movies happen. We all have a chance of benefiting when businesses prosper.

A Final Thought

I want to conclude by bringing up something my friend, who graduated in economics, pointed out to me when I was talking about this with him. He noted that during the Great Depression, impoverished Americans still went to the movies at an astounding 60-80 million per week! The film industry was struggling with finances, as was everyone else, but it nevertheless polished and honed messages to fit the moods of the times and provided an escape from reality that people were desperately seeking.

That meant jobs. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal was meant to create jobs because they were needed to strengthen an economy recovering from disaster. Hollywood was doing its part to generate jobs of its own by providing products Americans would go see. It might seem a small thing when considering a few thousand jobs in a country with a need for millions, but it was not nothing to those people employed in Hollywood during America’s greatest economic crisis.

The creation of jobs is why you should be okay with Hollywood executives anxiously approving the countless reboots we see today. Sure, movie quality is important as we enter the cinema looking for something new and exciting. Film sometimes provides that, and sometimes it lets us down. But at the end of the day, we should also want films to be profitable for the sake of those who make them, the people just trying to get along in today’s world.

So before you grumble the next time you drive by a theater and see a long queue of young moviegoers waiting to see another reboot, just remember:

At least it’s not White House Down.

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