YouTube Ties Classic Trailer Popularity to Reboot, Remakes and Sequels

It’s no secret that Hollywood is using the familiarity of existing properties in studio vaults to power the making of new movies. What’s the use of having Independence Day laying around if you’re not going to get some value out of it, propping up the home video revenue that was surely falling daily? Greenlight a sequel and put that IP to work, tapping into the nostalgia people might feel for that older movie with a campaign that emphasized the ties to the original.

Not only do these reboots, sequels and remakes rely on the idea there’s still love among the members of the audience for the originals, but they can spark renewed interest in those earlier films.

YouTube wanted to explore just how deep that interest ran and so analyzed its database to see what movie trailers for movies from the 80s and 90s, two eras Hollywood is currently keen on revisiting, were being searched for and viewed the most. Here’s what it found:

Remakes And Reboots

There’s one movie in each decade’s list that has straight-up been remade/rebooted: 1991’s Beauty and the Beast and 1984’s Ghostbusters. The former was remade with a live-action cast starring Emma Watson and the latter was rebooted (kind of?) with a new cast featuring Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and other female comedians. For Ghostbusters, the 2016 release of the new version caused views for the original’s trailer to more than triple the average monthly views. The Little Mermaid and The Lion King are being remade as well, but those are still a ways off.

That’s only a small fraction of the sheer number of movies that have been and are being rebooted and remade, of course. There are plenty in the near future as well, and according to YouTube this December’s new Jumanji is causing a significant spike in the views of the original’s trailer that’s only expected to grow in the coming months.


More prevalent are movies with sequels that have either just come out or are hitting theaters soon. But what’s interesting is that the interest that drives searches for these classic trailers doesn’t necessarily translate to success for the sequel. Let’s look at a few examples:

  • The Blair Witch Project: it ranks #5 on the 1990s list, but last year’s sequel only grossed $20m. That may not be bad when measured against its $5m budget, but it wasn’t great. Perhaps the strategy of shooting the movie under a fake name (The Woods) and not revealing the connection until a San Diego Comic-Con screening a couple months prior to release wasn’t the best plan.
  • Transpotting: It’s not as if the 1996 original was a massive success, but the $2.4m gross of the sequel must have been a disappointment, especially given the nostalgia-heavy campaign. The trailer was almost a shot-for-shot updating of the original, but that apparently didn’t connect with audiences as intended.

Evil Dead counts in this category as well, though kind of sideways. There hasn’t been feature film sequel in this franchise since 2013 but the story of Ash (played with campy gusto by Bruce Campbell) has continued on TV in “Ash vs. The Evil Dead.” So that series has apparently kept up interest in the Sam Raimi-directed original. Same with The Shining. While there hasn’t been a sequel to that particular story, the continued presence of Stephen King in movie theaters would seem to be enough to keep people searching for this trailer.

According to YouTube, the upcoming release of Blade Runner 2049 has caused searches for the original’s trailer to jump 112% from the first half of 2016 to the first half of 2017, a spike that correlates to the beginning of the marketing for the sequel. That might suggest that there’s strong desire for the new story, but based on the examples above that’s far from a certainty.

Everything Else

Matilda? American Pie? The Outsiders? Home Alone? None of these movies have active sequels, remakes or reboots in the works, so what’s driving continued interest in those trailers? It’s easy to see why people keep searching for Scarface’s trailer given that movie’s reputation as a shorthand for macho, decadent bluster. Everything else is more of a head-scratcher.

Perhaps this is pure, non-commercialized nostalgia driving people to search for them to revisit a fond memory from their own lives. Perhaps it’s a desire to show a mature audience’s own kids what movie they’re going to be forced to watch this weekend and enjoy, dammit. Perhaps it’s the YouTube recommendation algorithm that’s surfacing these videos and bringing them to people’s attention.

Whatever the case, it’s interesting to see how these lists do or don’t overlap with the top-grossing movies from those decades. What was popular then apparently isn’t so today, at least not when measured by YouTube trailer activity.

Author: Chris Thilk

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist with over 15 years of experience in online strategy and content marketing. He lives in the Chicago suburbs.

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