Stupid idea: the permasequel

Long ago, Hollywood was a creative land where artists turned dreams into reality. But at some point, the whole thing turned into an…

Stupid idea: the permasequel

Long ago, Hollywood was a creative land where artists turned dreams into reality. But at some point, the whole thing turned into an extension of Wall Street, with most movie productions acting as shell corporations for investment dollars. And investors want returns on their investments, so movies suffer. As investors balk at soft markets, Hollywood is enamored with the franchise and sequels to appease investors. It’s tough to go to a movie these days, watch the previews in a theater, and not see all comic book movies or sequels coming out. It’s sad that a truly original idea in any trailer is a novel thing these days. There’s a reason for that, and it’s safe investing. Why speculate with your money on risky new ideas when you can deliver familiar things that everyone knows they already love? It’s guaranteed ticket sales. It’s a safe bet.

I say Hollywood should lean in on sequels and declare one movie the permasequel. The permasequel gets made every year, and always comes out on the first Friday in June. Every year, a new director and lead actors, and each year, writers can tweak bits as they see fit, but overall the movie retains identical major plot points.

It’s my stupid idea, so I’ll pick the movie. Off the top of my head, there are three movies that if I see them on a plane or a hotel TV or while channel surfing, I’ll stop, and watch the rest of them every time, no matter how many times I’ve seen them. Those three are Oceans 11, The Big Lebowski, and Defending Your Life. The first one has too big of a cast, the second is kind of too iconic of a bro movie, but the third is something special. Let’s go with Defending Your Life.

It’s the perfect permasequel: you have a timeless combo of comedy and love story, along with a touching arc from your leads. You can put comic actors in any role or serious actors in comedic roles. Small bits could be updated for each year but the story remains the same. So maybe instead of listening to Babs on a brand new Compact Disc player in a new BMW that gets crushed by a bus (spoiler alert), someone fires up Beyoncé on TIDAL in a new Tesla that gets into an unfortunate autopilot altercation.

I could imagine every Fall there’d be news about who was cast in next year’s version of Life and who might get the next version’s roles. It’d be a rite of passage in Hollywood, as every aspiring director gunned for the job and rising stars cycled through the film’s various parts. It’d be the movie industry equivalent of doing a Summer Shakespeare series, something everyone does and most people casually see.

There’d be a whole world of DYL fandom, fangroups, and cosplayers. People would have their favorite Daniel and their favorite Julia and get in heated online fights about who was the best Bob Diamond of all time (Bill Murray, Defending Your Life 2012). The technology world loves a reference model—where everyone buys one thing and starts hacking on it, and all sorts of creative results follow. This is the movie industry equivalent.

It’d be guaranteed ticket sales for investors, as everyone flocked to theaters to see this year’s version of the gold standard romantic comedy. Every year we’d have a new yard stick to measure comedy, acting, and directing in a well-known story.

Everyone with me? Hollywood, let’s make this happen for 2017 and beyond.