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Hollywood and the Video Games Industry
by Emily Hurlburt

In the mid-1990s a trend hit Hollywood that would forever change the movie industry. Video games had swept the nation by flooding arcades, homes and the Internet with gaming capabilities. Because gaming was so popular at the time, people involved in the movie industry sought film opportunities with popular video games. Many of the films based on games were low budget and did not win over video games fans as much as the filmmakers had hoped. However, some films in this genre generated cult followings and grossed a large amount of money. Aside from the disappointment that many of these movies caused, this new trend has led to advancements in technology that continue to change the entertainment industry today.

The first video game based motion picture to be produced was Super Mario Brothers. Because Super Mario Brothers was one of the most popular games in the early 90s, filmmakers thought that a movie based on Mario's life would be a money maker. Despite grossing almost $21 million in the US, the Super Mario Brothers movie, which was released in May of 1993, was not well accepted by the public. While the movie collected a cult following, it received poor reviews and did not earn back its budget of $42 million. Much of the hype was about the discrepancy between the movie and the video game series. Deviations between the movies and the video game plots and characters are a common occurrence in this genre of film. Due to the film's dark tone, many parents didn't want to take their children to see it, putting a damper on its target demographic. Filmmakers did not become discouraged by the reaction of the public and continued to produce video game based motion pictures.

Released in 1994, Capcom's Street Fighter was another video game that was produced into a movie. A combination of characters from the Street Fighter and Street Fighter II games, this movie took a more comical approach in recreating this action packed story. Earning about $33.4 million in the US, the Street Fighter movie did not win over the public because the filmmaker neglected to keep the characters' background information the same in the film. Heroes were transformed into comical villains and Indian spiritualists became genetic scientists (Metro Magazine). These deviations turned video gamers, the target audience, away from the movie. Uniquely, a fighting game was released based on the movie, which featured digitized images of the cast's faces performing fight moves from the film. While the Street Fighter movie may have flopped, it inspired gamers to experiment with new technology that would be utilized in the future.

In 1995, the second-most successful video game based movie was released; Mortal Kombat. Produced by Paul Anderson, the Mortal Kombat movie made approximately $70 million in the US and grossed $125 million worldwide. Because this film received a popular reaction and earned a respectable amount of money, two sequels were later produced, including Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and Mortal Kombat:Devastation. The success of this film gave hope to the video game based movie genre.

After the triumph of the Mortal Kombat movie, six years would pass before another successful video game based motion picture would win over the public. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was released in 2001 and is the highest grossing film of this genre, earning $274.6 million worldwide. The main character was played by Angelina Jolie, which could have contributed to the movie's success in the US. However, many people questioned the casting because Lara Croft is a British character. Despite the hype, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was a huge success, along with its sequel Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.

The video game based motion pictures following the release of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider shared the success of its predecessor. Later that year, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within made $85 million worldwide. Resident Evil was released in 2002 and earned over $103 million across the world. Doom debuted at number one at the box office in 2005, but it failed to earn back its budget of $70 million. While the majority of films in this genre have failed, filmmakers continue to pursue the video game industry in hopes of producing successful movies like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Mortal Kombat.

Although people in the US have had mixed reactions to movies based on video games, the Japanese have taken this genre of film to a whole new level. Animation is a huge market in Japan, and they've created movies based on the video games Final Fantasy and Sonic the Hedgehog. However, the movie that has caused the most hype in Japan has been Pokemon. Resulting in eight movies to date, Pokemon is an animated series that swept Japan and the US with great success.

Because video games seem to be fairly new to the entertainment business compared to motion pictures, it's no surprise that filmmakers wanted to pursue the gaming market in hopes of creating a new genre of film. A little over ten years old, the video game based movie genre is slowly making its way into the general public. As with most experiments, films of this genre have suffered some losses but are continuing to fight their way into the mainstream. With plans of video game based movies already in the making, this genre has a promising future.


Works Cited :

The Numbers, Box Office Data, Movie Stars, Idle Speculation (4/28/06)

Wilks, Daniel. "Let the Games Begin". Metro Magazine Online; Issue 142; Autumn 2005

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia (4/28/06)


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