Are That Many Films Really Adaptations?

Andrew argues that “it is time for adaptation studies to take a sociological turn” (14). Here are some updates to his 1980 point that “well over half of all commercial films have come from literary originals” (10).

Has Hollywood Lost Its Way?” argues that Hollywood is relying more on adaptations and sequels because business is falling off.

Why Are We Happy to Be Caught in a Web of Movie Remakes?” agrees, and adds the idea of “retromania”:

The bleat can be overdone: it’s not as though everything is second-hand. An analysis of American-made releases in 2010 found that 60% were neither remakes, sequels or prequels, adaptations from other media, English language copies of foreign titles, 3D retrofits or even retellings of ancient myths. All the same, that leaves 40% that were indeed one of the above, and it’s those films that took the lion’s share of both multiplex screens and studio budgets.

Testing Myths” (the analysis mentioned above) offers a less bleak assessment of films from the year 2010.

From a quick analysis of these 194 films we see:

Percent Category Examples
60% Totally New The Back-up Plan, Black Swan, The Bounty Hunter, Hot Tub Time Machine, Easy A
12% Sequel Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Get Him to the Greek
19% Book ‘127 Hours’, ‘Legend of the Guardians’
3% Comic / Graphic Novel Kick-Ass, The Losers,Red, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Jonah Hex, Marmaduke
2% TV The A-Team, The Last Airbender,MacGruber,Yogi Bear
2% Play For Colored Girls, Jack Goes Boating, Rabbit Hole, The Tempest
4% Non 3-D remake of an English Language Film Clash of the Titans, The Crazies, Death at a Funeral, The Karate Kid, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wall Street, The Wolfman
1% A 3-D Remake of an English Language Film Piranha 3-D,Tron Legacy
2% Remake of a Foreign Language Film Dinner for Schmucks, Hachiko: A Dog’s Story, Let Me In
1% Video Game Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
1% Legends & Myths Robin Hood


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About Kevin L. Ferguson

Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing at Queens
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2 Responses to Are That Many Films Really Adaptations?

  1. Ok, so, I have a question: If we take part in adaptation in our everyday lives, then isn’t an “original” film a representation of some other “text.” It’s not an original literary text, but it’s a text nonetheless. So wouldn’t that make all cinema adaptation? Or are we not counting those. *smiles*

  2. (Seeing that I can’t edit my previous comments). I think that maybe in earlier films it was all about technique, and art, and testing things out, but today it’s all about making money. The industry tried producing films to just make money and that didn’t work (we still have movies that are driven by CGI rather than by plot and character development); now, they’re trying to infuse “art” into these big budget movies, but with the expressed purpose of making more money still. Seeing that it’s about money (maybe that a bit of hyperbole), and money making actors, and money making directors, we’re just stuck with what we have now. You know, I never saw that movie Avatar. I saw a preview and in my head, I’m like, ok white saves everything (I believe I’ve seen that before somewhere *smiles*). The good white man, not the “white devils,” have protected the natives from colonialization. Wait. I know I’ve seen this before somewhere. But we are taken away by the love story and not the reality of what’s happening. Boo Boo Boo for Avatar.

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