There is no new idea. Mark Twain made this observation, and who knew he was anticipating Hollywood’s compulsion to reboot and detach and treat any stand-alone story as a launching pad for an entire universe of stories.

Everything old is new again. And even. And even.

Have you heard that a “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” spin-off is in the works? An “Ally McBeal” sequel too. Jake Gyllenhaal is set to star in a ‘Road House’ remake and a ‘Dirty Dancing’ sequel is on the way. A rebooted “Quantum Leap” will air on NBC this fall. Disney+ is developing a live-action King Kong series, while Netflix has its own animated version on the way called “Skull Island.” Kenya Barris is tackling “The Wizard of Oz,” and that’s in addition to another Oz movie that’s also in development. A reimagining of Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser” will premiere on Hulu, while Apple TV+ has a “Godzilla” coming. “Planet of the Apes” is also being reborn – in fact, the most recent news report I read called it “the next series of ‘Planet of the Apes’ movies.” Moviesplural.

Titles don’t even have to be old to be new again. HBO just premiered its “Game of Thrones” prequel “House of the Dragon” and Amazon is releasing its “Lord of the Rings” gambit called “Rings of Power.” Starz has its own “Power” rings, with a franchise of three spin-off series. And the success of “Yellowstone” resulted in a 19th century origin story (“1883”) and a 20th century version as well (“1923”).

With each announcement, I think: make sure it stops.

Hollywood won’t stop.

Because when these properties hit, they really hit. The biggest movie of the summer is “Top Gun: Maverick,” a sequel to the 1986 original that has grossed $1.3 billion globally since opening in late May.

On Amazon, the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own” has been turned into a terrific TV series, and AMC’s “Breaking Bad” spin-off “Better Call Saul” has just wrapped after six successful seasons. considerable critical and possibly some Emmy wins next month.

That is to say, stories that take place in the same world as the original aren’t automatically a bad thing.

But the large number of them being produced? Numbness.

Audiences are faced with more TV and movie premieres than any viewer can reasonably keep up with, and if producers can repackage something familiar, they’re at least assured of some awareness and interest before the service marketers don’t start spending real money.

This is not a new phenomenon. I mean, Twain said as much. Ironically, that goes for his own work when it comes to Hollywood: his 1884 novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” has been done and redone at least eight times since the advent of motion pictures. The novel, of course, is a sequel to “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” which itself has more than two dozen screen adaptations.

But for the past decade, at least, there has been a palpable cynicism driving it all. Redo, reimagine, whatever you want to call it: we have reached the point where intellectual property is seen as a resource to be exploited endlessly. Because what’s the point of owning the copyright to back up titles if those titles aren’t making any fresh money? That’s how movie studios, TV networks, and streaming platforms see it.

George Lucas has expressed his own dismay at this line of thinking, which he himself helped to usher in when “Star Wars” became a multi-part juggernaut, narrative an interviewer, “The studios said, ‘Wow, we can make a lot of money. This is a license to kill’…and the only way to do that is if you don’t take risks – don’t only do something that has been proven. The result, he said, is a lack of imagination and “a fear of creativity on the part of an industry.”

That’s why, in October, we’ll see the release of “Halloween Ends,” aka Laurie Strode’s Last Stand. Talk about a license to kill. The number of movies in the “Halloween” franchise has hit double digits and despite that title, don’t expect an end in sight. The producers are saying it is the last, but do you believe it? If a leader thinks there’s money to be made, well… you know the rest.

I am not indifferent to what we might euphemistically call market forces. It’s an uphill battle for brand new projects, and sometimes it comes down to landing on the right title to capture a significant audience. The vampire movie “The Invitation,” released on Friday, was originally called “The Bride,” but it wasn’t suitable for men. (Men, I implore you: Come on.) You know it’s bad when a writer-director of an all-original story says that the script review process — a normal thing that happens all the time with original ideas — “felt like a mess. ‘adapt a great piece of intellectual property’, as Olivia Wilde did recently when discussing her new movie ‘Don’t Worry Darling’.

Revising the script felt like adapting a really good piece of IP — as if that were the standard against which everything was compared. The failure.

Good. He is.

At least the announced project “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” approaches the story from a new angle. Developed by the same team behind the Netflix series “Cobra Kai” (which itself reinvents “The Karate Kid” franchise), the new “Day Off” will apparently focus on the downtown parking lot attendants who took this Stolen red Ferrari for a joy ride while Ferris and his friends dropped out of school to take in the sights and sounds of downtown Chicago.

Is this all a phase? Or is this the long term future of filmed entertainment? The dirty little secret is that unscripted shows, aka reality TV, tend to outperform most of what’s out there — and they’re cheaper to produce. Maybe we should just be happy to still have as much scripted content as we do, even though a lot of these projects are like someone flipping a t-shirt upside down and pretending that’s the same as putting something on something new.

In 2018 when we had this same conversation – oh gawd this very column that you read is a reboot – NBC executive Jeff Wachtel had this to say:

“We would prefer not to do restarts. We favor an original vision.

Two years later, he was absent.

And reboot mania remains as entrenched as ever.

Nina Metz is a critic at the Tribune

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