In 1986, U.S. President Ronald Reagan was wrestling with the Iran-Contra scandal, Americans were humming “That’s What Friends Are For” and the Vietnam War saga “Platoon” was on its way to the Best Picture Oscar.
That same year, TriStar released a romantic comedy called “About Last Night,” starring young Brat Packers Demi Moore and Rob Lowe. It got great reviews – four stars from Roger Ebert – and was a box office hit.
All of that’s relevant because Sony Screen Gems is rolling out a remake of “About Last Night” — starring Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy and Regina King — on Feb. 14, the start of a weekend book-ended by Valentine’s Day on Friday and President’s Day on Monday.
That same week, Sony and MGM are opening their remake of “Robocop” – the original starring Peter Weller came out in 1987 – and Universal is debuting its update on “Endless Love,” the 1981 tale of tortured teen love that starred Brooke Shields and was Tom Cruise‘s first major movie role.
That’s three remakes of at least semi-iconic 1980s movies all landing on the same weekend. You’re forgiven if the Pet Shop Boys are suddenly supplying your mental Muzak.
“I was and am a big fan of the original ‘About Last Night,'” said Sony distribution chief Rory Bruer, who was working at TriStar when it came out. “But this one is about as funny as a romantic comedy can be, and we’ve got Kevin Hart, and he’s about as hot as an actor can be.”
The goal with a remake is to find a sweet spot with audiences by striking enough familiar chords to intrigue older moviegoers who remember the originals, while still seeming fresh enough to attract younger crowds.
There are no sure things. Sony connected to the tune of $359 million worldwide with its redo of the 1984 hit “The Karate Kid” in 2010, but 2012’s pricey “Total Recall” remake was a domestic disappointment.
And for every “Longest Yard,” which took in $190 million worldwide in 2005 vs. $43 million for the 1974 original, there is a “Dredd.” That 2012 remake did $35 million worldwide, compared to the non-inflation-adjusted $113 million rung up by “Judge Dredd” in 1995.
The trio of Valentine’s updates will have varying degrees of box-office success to match. The first “Endless Love” made $32 million and the original “About Last Night” did $38 million. The first “Robocop” was R-rated and featured a memorable performance by Weller (“Your move, creep”) and brought in $53 million.
“It was very smart to make this ‘Robocop’ PG-13,'” said Catheine Paura, founder an chief executive at Capstone Global Marketing, “because I think you’ll find plenty of dads who loved the original wanting to take their sons to it.”
She thought “Endless Love,” also PG-13 rather than the original’s R, had a good chance at connecting as well, particularly on Valentine’s Day weekend.
“This was the romantic movie when it came out, and that will help but a love story is a love story, and that’s attracting young women,” she said.
Significantly, none of the original movies played overseas. That’s often the case with remakes, and the chance to find a new audience abroad is one reason so many get made.
As an action film, the new “Robocop” should pack a powerful punch with overseas audiences oblivious to the original film and its two sequels. It opened No. 1 in three smaller Asian territories last week and will roll out in 40 more foreign markets this weekend, ahead of its U.S. debut on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
Some remakes come so long after the first film that it hardly matters. Fox’s Ben Stiller comedy ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” for example, is a remake of a 1947 film starring Danny Kaye, but how many 20-year-olds know that?