By Daniel Bukszpan, CNBC.com
Hollywood has remake fever. While nobody ever accused the American film industry of having too many new ideas, the number of remakes being trotted out by the major studios lately is alarming - as is their choice of movies to remake. For example, on Oct. 14, 2011, remakes of both 1984's "Footloose" and 1981's "The Thing" will come to theaters. Although no one can say how much money they'll make, it's hard to imagine they'll make less money than their 30-year-old predecessors. Or will they?
The rationale behind remakes is they have name recognition, which ought to make them easier to sell than movies based on new and unproven formulas. This logic is flawed, however. On BoxOfficeMojo.com's inflation-adjusted list of the 100 highest-grossing movies of all time, not one movie is a remake. There are plenty of sequels and movies based on books and television shows, but as far as remakes of existing films, nothing. There are no re-imaginings, shot-for-shot replicas, or reboots either.
Time will tell how the remakes of "Footloose" and "The Thing" fare with moviegoers. There are already several high-profile examples of remakes that not only weren't successful, but didn't make as much money as the originals that inspired them. CNBC.com collected the domestic box office gross of movies and their remakes, using data from BoxOfficeMojo.com and adjusting the numbers for inflation.
Domestic Gross (Original): $4.1 million (Inflation-adjusted: $11.3 million)
Domestic Gross (Remake): $4.2 million (Inflation-adjusted: $5.7 million)
Discrepancy: $5.6 million
The 1980s original "Gloria" stars Gena Rowlands in the title role. She portrays the aging former girlfriend of a mobster who takes a young boy under her wing after his family is murdered. Though not a commercial hit, the film received good reviews and Rowlands was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress. Almost 20 years later, Sharon Stone of "Basic Instinct" fame was cast to play the title role in a 1999 remake.
The idea of making a new version of the film was met with confusion by the few people who had seen the original. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly magazine was compelled to ask, "I mean, really, did anyone even like the original?" Stone was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress, and the movie itself was a box office disaster, earning back $4.2 million of its $30 million budget. After adjusting for inflation, the 1999 remake of "Gloria" ultimately earned just over half of what its predecessor made in the waning days of the Carter administration.
Columbia Pictures"The Karate Kid" (1984 / 2010)
Domestic Gross (Original): $90.8 million (Inflation-adjusted: $198 million)
Domestic Gross (Remake): $176.6 million (Inflation-adjusted: $183.5 million)
Discrepancy: $14.5 million
"The Karate Kid" tells the inspiring tale of Daniel, a New Jersey teen played by Ralph Macchio. He moves with his mother to southern California, where he's soon bullied by adolescent thugs. Luckily, Daniel enlists the help of Mr. Miyagi, the elderly, bonsai-clipping handyman of his mother's apartment complex. Kindly Mr. Miyagi is trained in the martial arts, and he teaches Daniel how to become a messenger of vengeance.
The crowd-pleasing 1984 film became an instant hit upon its release, earning a then-impressive $90.8 million and spawning multiple sequels. Perhaps hoping to recapture some of the original film's magic, the movie was remade in 2010 with kung fu legend Jackie Chan. The remake did respectable business, opening at No. 1 at the domestic box office and eventually earning an inflation-adjusted total of $183.5 million. It didn't beat the inflation-adjusted box office take of the original, however, at a hefty $198 million.
Domestic Gross (Original): $30.9 million (Inflation-adjusted: $141.9 million)
Domestic Gross (Remake): $80.6 million (Inflation-adjusted: $99.2 million)
Discrepancy: $32.8 million
Although the amount of onscreen bloodshed seems mild today, the 1974 original "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" had been considered one of the most gruesome horror movies ever made. Film critic Roger Ebert said of it, "I can't imagine why anyone would want to make a movie like this." Horror fans flocked to it, however, and today it's considered an indispensable classic of the genre, alongside "The Exorcist" and "The Shining."
The film was remade in 2003 by director Marcus Nispel. The new version is a grisly exercise in psychological torture that made back more than eight times its $9.5 million budget at the domestic box office. Its inflation-adjusted domestic total of $99.2 million fell far short of the original's $141.9 million adjusted take, though, and its relatively low budget is far less impressive when one considers that the original was made for approximately $60,000. That number would equal $306,000 today, making the original's box office haul a 46,400 percent return on the filmmakers' original investment.
Domestic Gross (Original): $21.2 million (Inflation-adjusted: $58.3 million)
Domestic Gross (Remake): $22.5 million (Inflation-adjusted: $23.7 million)
Discrepancy: $34.6 million
In 1980, "Fame" was released to an unexpectedly enthusiastic response. The movie was not just successful, it became a phenomenon that spawned a hit single and inspired a television show that ran for five years. The movie took in $21.2 million, or $58.3 million in today's dollars.
In 2009, a remake of the film was released. It received scathing reviews across the board, many of which wondered aloud why the film had even been remade in the first place. The film's budget was a relatively low $18 million, so when it made $22.5 million at the domestic box office it at least broke even. That box office take was only about $700,000 more than the original film had made in 1980, and after adjusting for inflation, the remake missed the original's box office total by $34.6 million.
Domestic Gross (Original): $39.6 million (Inflation-adjusted: $92.9 million)
Domestic Gross (Remake): $21.3 million
Discrepancy: $71.6 million
"The Terminator" may have made Arnold Schwarzenegger a superstar, but 1982's "Conan The Barbarian" was an important step in his career. It depicted the titular barbarian in the course of nonstop battles, beheadings and bloodletting. The movie made $39.6 million at the box office, or $92.9 million in today's dollars. While few were surprised the film was ignored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it has achieved classic status nonetheless - if only for the moment when Conan says that what is best in life is to "crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women."
The movie was remade in 2011, with "Game of Thrones" actor Jason Momoa in the title role. It had a $90 million budget and was released in a 3D version, and all indications pointed to the new "Conan" becoming one of 2011's blockbuster films. When it was released, however, people simply didn't show up and it opened in fourth place, two slots higher than a remake of the TV cartoon "The Smurfs." The film's final $21.3 million take amounted to just a fraction of its budget, and was disastrous when weighed against the $92.9 million that the original "Conan" made in today's dollars.