Is This Original? How Hollywood Stopped Making Original Movies

This image shows some of the movies that won an Academy Award for best original screenplay. 
Top row from left to right: Get Out (2017), The Hurt Locker (2009), Birdman (2014). Bottom left column top to bottom: Her (2013), Juno (2007). Bottom left: Django Unchained (2012)

A screenplay, in the simple words of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “the script and often shooting directions of a story prepared for motion-picture production.” There are essentially two different classifications of a screenplay: adapted screenplays and original screenplays. Adapted screenplays are scripts that are based on pre-existing source material (i.e. a novel, a comic book, a news article, etc.). Original screenplays are scripts that are wholly based on the screenwriter’s own, unique imagination, and completely new to the world. With advancements in modern media, there are noticeably fewer and fewer original screenplays advertised today than adapted screenplays. This is due to the profit opportunities, and nostalgia associated with adapted screenplays, and age limitations on ratings given to original screenplays.

The Star Wars movies are an interesting example of original and adapted screenplays. The original Star Wars trilogy are original screenplays, but the sequels that followed, such as the Force Awakens and Return of the Jedi are adapted screenplays; they are based off of the graphic novels and books written after the original trio. It is the cult classic movies like these that are creating more tension between the two classifications, because of the multimedia approaches that have come from them; the sequels have the combined grossing of 3.4 billion dollars worldwide with a third movie on the way. Star Wars has created its own theme park, about three dozen video games, numerous extremely profitable toy lines, and a handful of spinoff children’s cartoons. An article on variety.com states that the total merchandise sales from the franchise has risen to the whopping amount of 262.9 billion dollars. Another famous doctored screenplay series is Harry Potter which also has numerous toy lines, its own theme park, and more. The website ranker.com states that “thanks to book sales, toys, scarves and a little thing called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the merchandising franchise is worth an estimated 15 billion.” Attractions like these create more recognition for the films due to the previously stated revenue. 

Take, for instance, the Quentin Tarantino movie Django Unchained,  a very popular film well known for its storytelling and cast of Jamie Foxx, Morgan Freeman, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Django Unchained was also the highest grossing movie of the 21st century to win an Academy Award for best original screenplay with the budget of 100 million dollars and the worldwide grossing of 425.4 million. That being said, you could not make as much money off Django Unchained as you could something like Star Wars because of the key point of family-friendliness; Django Unchained is extremely rated “R,” which puts limits on ticket revenue.

The website quora.com states that “the suggested age for an R-rated movie is ‘17 years old, unless accompanied by an adult.”  There are no state laws enforcing this, but there are guidelines as to what a child under the age of 17 is able to see. Generally, many parents do not let their children view whatever violence or “ adult content” is provided by said movie. With our growing age and culture, there has been talk of overstimulation and violence in the media. We can definitely see this theme of violence in movies. 84.3% of the 21st century Best Original Screenplay Academy Awards winners movies are rated R with the exception of one unrated movie (The Hurt Locker, 2009). When a movie is rated R, it loses the family friendly appeal, which turns away a large portion of viewers. 

With the rising publicity of sequels and the merchandise surrounding them, the unique stories and insight that original screenplays bring are slowly being pushed out of the media spotlight. The mature topics covered by some original screenplays create makes an even smaller range in motion in terms of advertisement. According to the previous statistics, these factors reduce the recognition and reputation of the original screenplay. But if directors like Terentino continue to create works of art like Django Unchained, there will always be those who will watch and therefore carry on the tradition of the original screenplay.

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