Earlier this week, Peter Sciretta of Slashfilm and Jason Kottke of kottke.org reported that only two of the top 30 films of the decade were based on original material: Disney/Pixar's "Finding Nemo" and DreamWorks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda". In fact, only nine of the top 50 films were based on original material, and five of them were from Pixar! Everything else was based on an existing motion picture, novel, comic book, or in the case of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series, a theme park ride!
The movie business has been on a tear, with ever-increasing budgets fueled by DVD revenues. To mitigate the risk of failure for those stratospherically-budgeted movies, studios produce films based on known properties. Original works get crowded out or pushed to the studios' "independent" arms, which operate on relatively small budgets and get very little promotional support unless a movie has Academy Award potential.
The result is like never eating a meal that you haven't already eaten. Yet Pixar, which has only created one sequel in the history of the studio, has the best track record of any studio in terms of average revenue per movie. Is the lesson here to create fewer but better, more original, movies? Something to think about.