Originality: Tried and True

dailies_originalityby Benton Olivares

I must admit, I was rather unimpressed with the big, blockbuster offerings this summer. As you’ve probably figured out by now, I’m probably the most outwardly nerdy at the Revolution Pictures office (as evidenced by my Gandalf quote), and I love to see big action films, comedies, fantasy adventures, and superhero flicks. However, this year felt a little flat–probably because the tired tropes of remakes and reboots fogged my experience. I want to explore a trend that I think people often forget: originality will always be king–evidenced by smaller films and captivating episodic content.


Tired Formulas Falling in Favor
Amidst the seemingly endless onslaught of remakes this summer, one in particular stood out as a profound bust. Ben Hur has reportedly lost the studio $120 million dollars. In its marketing, the film didn’t feel fresh or put a modern twist on the story–it didn’t resonate with audiences or critics. Rob Moore, vice chairman at Paramount, says that audiences want something “great” or “original”; Ben Hur seemed to not hit either of those checkboxes for moviegoers this summer.

On the other hand, there have been incredibly successful movies this summer that aren’t sequels or reboots. Don’t Breathe, a horror/thriller film from Sony, has made almost $69 million off of a $10 million budget. The film is masterfully crafted with a compelling, thrilling story and great characters, and it didn’t rely on previous movie installments or cheap scares to sell tickets. Its effort in originality has paid off in a massive way and isn’t slowing down any time soon. The buzz around this film has been huge online, and is just one example of original films that have had monstrous successes this summer.


Storytelling on Streaming TV
Undoubtedly, you’ve heard about Stranger Things on Netflix, probably from all of your Facebook friends who tell you to watch it right now. Netflix’s latest hit has reportedly garnered 14 million views, which would equate to around $130 million. If Stranger Things had been a 2-hour theatrical release with a budget similar to other horror/thriller genre films, it would have championed almost 15x its budget.

Even more revealing is the nature of Stranger Things and its celebration of 80s genre films in the vein of John Carpenter and Stephen King stories. You’d think that a show that rehashes certain story elements would hit that snooze zone like the unending slew of remakes in cinemas, but the exact opposite is true. People love the show and it’s been greenlit for a second season (thank goodness). It balances itself perfectly on the intersection of originality and nostalgia; it lends to the question of where are the trends going for engaging, original content.


Branded Content and Originality
One of my favorite series of sponsored content is Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. It’s sponsored by Acura, and––besides the commercial upfront and comical product placement––Acura is refreshingly absent from the bulk of each episode. It’s been renewed for multiple seasons, and has a huge following among the millennial crowd. Consumers recognize Acura as a brand that supports great stories and compelling characters.

In the more dramatic genre, the Ford Everyday Heroes web series expressed Ford’s brand values by adding humanity and greater meaning to their brand promise. The series is authentic, engaging, and it heavily increased their brand value. The series garnered over 8 million impressions and 13 million views, in total. They saw an incredible jump in association with their brand promise: Go Further. It’s innovative, fresh storytelling that seems to be attracting huge audiences.


How We Adapt
I won’t make the concession that theaters are going to be dinosaurs anytime soon. The trends follow dollars, and dollars are saying that people are getting tired of tropes. If we look at movies, TV shows, and branded content that play well with audiences, the buzz follows original content.

We always strive to break new ground with creative content, and the balances are scaling more in our favor every year. More people engage with original content every year (whether at the movies or on TV), and we can’t help but love the stories that are coming from creators who showcase their stories on different platforms. We’ve always been advocates for telling the best stories on all platforms––whether that be documentaries, short films, or online creative content. Ultimately, the trend is towards originality; we’re poised to engage audiences as well as be engaged with great content (I’m looking at you, season two of Stranger Things).