When it was announced that MGM Holdings' (NASDAQOTH:MGMB) Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) Warner Bros. were teaming up with Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin to reboot the "Stargate" franchise, fans were split into two camps. One group of fans was excited that the long-gestating plans to expand on 1994's Stargate film was finally seeing some traction. The other group was highly disappointed (and in some cases, enraged) that all of the continuity from the three TV shows that followed the film (a total of 17 seasons worth of story) was being discarded for the reboot.
While the creators and rights holders can obviously do as they wish with the property, is it really a smart move to abandon so much material that the fans hold dear? More importantly, could the choice to reboot using only the original film's continuity hurt the reboot's chances of success?
The reboot treatment
The 1994 Stargate film was originally conceived as the first part of a trilogy of films. According to Devlin, the second film was supposedly going to center on a different mythology than the Egyptian motif used in the first, while the third film would tie various mythologies together. Unfortunately, the follow-up films were never made despite the original film earning a worldwide gross of $196.5 million on a budget of only $55 million. Original stars Kurt Russell and James Spader were reportedly interested in reprising their roles, but the sequels never materialized despite buzz about them moving forward in 2006.
Instead of trying to pick up the story 20 years later, the new film will serve as a reboot of the original and then build sequels from there. While it's likely that the new trilogy will at least somewhat follow Emmerich and Devlin's plans for the original movies, that leaves no room for all of the continuity that played out on the small screen. This may in turn alienate part of the franchise's fan base -- it's likely that a good portion of the fans could be considered fans of the shows and their technology, aliens, and locales.
While there are generally grumblings among fans whenever Hollywood decides to reboot a beloved film, the potential danger here comes from the fact that so much of the content from the franchise isn't related to the film that's being rebooted. There have been relatively few attempts to reboot a film property after it has become a successful television series, with one of the most recent being Warner Bros.' own attempt to remake Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That film died in 2011, however, so no comparisons can be made regarding its success or failure.
This means that MGM and Warner Bros. will be exploring relatively new territory, and at least some of the target audience will associate "Stargate" more with the TV shows than the 20-year-old film that they were based on. That's an unenviable position for a film studio, especially when working on a sci-fi trilogy that will likely require increasingly large special effects budgets as it progresses.
If franchise fans don't embrace the new films, that could leave the studios struggling to turn a profit on the joint venture to produce the films. Even if the budgets for the films remain relatively conservative (as opposed to some of Emmerich's more recent films -- White House Down bore a budget of $150 million and 2012 broke $200 million with its end-of-the-world FX), they will almost certainly be higher than the original film's $55 million (which adjusted for inflation would be over $87.9 million today.)
Could it still be a hit?
While the odds might seem to be against MGM and Warner Bros., that doesn't mean that the new "Stargate" trilogy is doomed to fail. With the original creative team on board and the Warner Bros. marketing department behind the eventual promotion of the films, the argument could be made that the films stand a good chance of reaching blockbuster status. Development of the films as a trilogy also fits nicely into the trend of films being franchises instead of one-off productions and allows some expenses such as cast salaries to potentially be reduced by multi-picture contracts.
The new "Stargate" trilogy definitely has potential, but it has some significant opposition to overcome as well. Fans will be watching closely for casting news as the project progresses, and being able to successfully market both to skeptical fans and the larger moviegoing public will make or break the films. If the first film hits big, it could be the next major step in the franchise as a whole. If it bombs, however, then it might be the second time that the "Stargate" sequels end up being left in the dust.
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