Why Nostalgia is a Common Element in the Film Industry

Filmmaking has made unprecedented progress ever since its inception. Its constantly evolving, learning and adapting to its dynamic audience. From animating using hand-drawn images to using complex computer-generated imagery (CGI), the film industry has come a long way from its humble beginnings. The past decade has seen an increasing number of reboots, remakes, adaptations and more reboots. From remaking the classic animated The Lion King (1994) to the live-action film The Lion King (2019), everything that was once popular has been brought back to cater to the one growing element in the film industry. Nostalgia.

Disney has largely been at the forefront of remaking old animated classics such as Cinderella, The Jungle Book and many more into live-action films. Contrary to this, we have seen movies that are further instalments to the original series or franchises, case in point, Jurassic World (2015), Jumanji (2017) and the Star Wars “Skywalker Saga” sequels, though the last one is a bit more confusing.

Film making is an expensive business, especially when there is no guarantee of the success of the movie. In these times of uncertainties, the only factor that can almost always guarantee the financial success of the film is nostalgia. Its easier to play it safe than indulge with new concepts to ensure a favourable outcome for the film, which is what most productions are aiming for these days. Most businesses follow the practice of maximizing profits/minimizing loses and the film industry is no different from this rule of law. As most of the reboots or remakes already have an existing fan base, it is much easier for new releases to capitalize on this market while maximising profits. 

These “blasts from the past” movies have been a phenomenon for the past two decades, however, the shift seems to be more drastic in the last few years. While most of these movies have received financial success in terms of revenue, the fans are often left divided. Some enjoy the film whereas others leave the cinema with a sour taste in their mouth.

Nostalgia also has deeper impacts on people than we realize. We, as humans, love to be part of a community with similar interests or talk to people about things we reminisce about. This craving for familiarity makes us open to anything that can bring back memories of the past and also make us involuntarily oppose to anything new, be it a concept or a film. Just think about it, if you could watch a limited number of movies in a year, would you rather watch a movie that appeals to your nostalgia like Pokemon Detective Pikachu (2019) or a movie that you are completely unfamiliar with such as Serenity (2019) or Black Christams (2019). For most people, the choice is the former which is clearly visible from the fact most of the top box office revenues of the year are either sequels to popular franchises or feature characters that are familiar to us.

The nostalgia element isn’t just exclusive to the film industry, this is also seen in the music industry in forms of new covers of existing songs or remixing classic songs to cater to new audiences. Similarly, the anime industry is reviving old franchises in the form of movies or new TV shows. In 2015, Dragon Ball made a comeback to the TV show format in the form of Dragon Ball Super after 18 years since the show originally ended in 1997 as Dragon Ball GT. This plainly shows the market for nostalgia and the amount of money that the industry makes from them.