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The Movie-Remake Craze: How Hollywood's Empty Ideas Are Filling Theaters

06/02/2015 01:52 pm ET | Updated Jun 02, 2016

Long before his voice became an inescapable fixture on pretty much every one of your car radio's presets, Red Hot Chili Peppers vocalist Anthony Keidis was playing a surfer with attitude in the 1991 film "Point Break." The singer shared a short scene with Keanu Reeves, whose character asked a gang of local thugs whether they were going to lecture him about surfing etiquette. Kiedis's character's response: "That would be a waste of time."

You know, kind of like the film's remake 24 years later.

At least that seems to be the consensus among those of us who watched the new "Point Break" trailer that was released by Warner Bros. Pictures last week. The clip received more than 6 million hits on YouTube, many of which came from fans of the original who seem less than pleased that the movie is getting a reboot. Among the comments that viewers wrote:

- "You are about to create a horrible remake and worse yet, give the original movie a bad name."
- "They are about to destroy a classic."
- "(Original star Patrick) Swayze will be turning in his grave."
- "Disrespectful to the original."

But let's be honest: many of us casting hate on the new version will go see it when it comes out in December. We always do. Several of the "Point Break" comments asked why Hollywood continues to churn out remakes and sequels instead of doing something new and original. But by going out of their way to watch the trailer for a remake they supposedly detest, they answered their own question.

The most interesting question about the movie industry's seemingly constant retreads isn't why they're happening; rather, it's why we continue to gobble up whatever doses of nostalgia are being fed to us, then deny that we wanted them in the first place. Don't blame Hollywood for lazily remaking the classics instead of bringing brand-new ideas to the table: the real culprit is every movie fan who goes to the theater. If no one was buying tickets to see this endless stream of reboots, sequels and spinoffs, they wouldn't be made.

"Point Break" isn't the only 2015 remake to irk movie fans: in February, for example, 20th Century Fox released the trailer for its new take on 1982's "Poltergeist." Fans of the original checked it out and left comments such as, "This is gonna be bad," "Some stuff shouldn't be rebooted," and "The original is unmatched, this film is unnecessary." Yet since its Memorial Day weekend release, the new "Poltergeist" has grossed more than $46 million worldwide. Which means that, for the studio that produced it, this film was hardly unnecessary.

For all of our complaints about Hollywood's lack of originality, we have already turned out in droves this year to see everything from "Pitch Perfect 2" to "Avengers: Age of Ultron," "Taken 3" to "Furious Seven." And starting this weekend, the summer's most anticipated releases will continue the pattern: coming your way in just the next couple of months are "Entourage," "Jurassic World," Ted 2," "Terminator: Genisys," "Magic Mike XXL," "Pan," "Mission: Impossible 5," "Fantastic Four," "JEM," and "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." Why? Because the movie studios know that, as much as we say we hate remakes, sequels, spinoffs and adaptations, we'll buy a ticket to see them.

Hollywood's reliance on expanding its proven commodities, rather than offering us new ideas, is a relatively recent phenomenon. Of the 10 most popular films released in 1985, only one ("Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome") was a sequel or a remake; a decade later, none were, as all 10 of the most popular movies released in 1995 were original, first-run concepts. But in the new millennium, things have changed: of the 10 most popular films that came out in 2005, "The 40 Year Old Virgin" was the only one not based on a previously existing movie, comic book, graphic novel, or classic literary work.

The same trend can be seen in our favorite TV shows: of the 10 highest-rated shows in both 1985 and 1995, none were remakes, updates or spinoffs. But in 2005, our top 10 favorite shows included two separate versions of "CSI" and "Law & Order." And things are even worse in 2015: last month's top 10 included two versions of the "NCIS" franchise, as well as "The Voice" and "Dancing With the Stars" (both of which are just American versions of programs that had already proven successful overseas).

Our late-night talk shows have also become a haven for nostalgia. Jimmy Fallon sits atop the late-show ratings, but much of what he does is mere reinvention. We may love his "Saved by the Bell" and "Full House" reboots, "History of Rap" segments, and music video parodies, but what's so new about material rooted in the past? Speaking of which, even Fallon's house band, The Roots, were already an established brand by the time he brought them on board.

Whether it's film, prime-time TV or late-night talk, we may publicly demand something new, but the numbers don't lie: privately, we go with what we know. We shouldn't be mad at the entertainment industry for merely updating instead of inventing; if anything, we should be mad at ourselves for providing an audience for projects we claim to despise. Sure, many of our favorite movies, TV programs and late-night talk shows are not original. But they're also the ones we're most excited about watching, whether we want to admit it or not.