From the inception of cinema to today’s franchise era, remaking has always been a motor of ongoing film production. Hollywood Remaking challenges the categorical dismissal in film criticism of remakes, sequels, and franchises by probing what these formats really do when they revisit familiar stories. Kathleen Loock argues that movies from Hollywood’s large-scale system of remaking use serial repetition and variation to constantly negotiate past and present, explore stability and change, and actively shape how the film industry, cinema, and audiences imagine themselves. Far from a simple profit-making exercise, remaking is an inherently dynamic practice situated between the film industry’s economic logic and the cultural imagination. Although remaking developed as a business practice in the United States, this book shows that it also shapes cinematic aesthetics and cultural debates, fosters film-historical knowledge, and promotes feelings of generational belonging among audiences.

Kathleen Loock is Professor of American Studies and Media Studies at Leibniz University Hannover, Germany, where she also directs the Emmy Noether Research Group “Hollywood Memories: Cinematic Remaking and the Construction of Global Movie Generations.” Learn more at

What motivated you to write on this topic?

Initially, I was fascinated by film remakes and how repetition generates difference from one version to the next. Repetition and difference in Hollywood remakes foreground technological, aesthetic, and cultural change in ways that inscribe an overarching idea of progress into these movies. They establish a sense of continuity that has nothing to do with the actual film remakes themselves, but with how they address, update, and negotiate familiar themes and plots at different points in time.

I wanted to know exactly how this worked and how film remakes and their cultural functions had evolved historically. But when I embarked on this project, I realized that I had to broaden my scope to include series, sequels, and franchises, because they relied on the same practice. It made sense to discuss them together.

I approach Hollywood remaking from a seriality studies, memory studies, and cultural studies perspective. I look at how movies that are remade, continued, updated, and revised over long periods of time can shape memories and generational identities while also threatening them, how they seem to promise stable meanings but also actively work against them, and why they are considered profitable, risk-proof ventures when they often fail.

Why do remakes, sequels and franchises — often dismissed in film criticism — warrant further study?

These movies have long been overlooked as serious objects of study because of their blatantly commercial nature. They seem to contradict ideals of art and creativity—so the argument goes. Unlike self-contained, supposedly original movies that reject charges of commodification, they clearly follow industrial imperatives.

They might be considered “bad” movies by critics and scholars but these value judgments obstruct their cultural work, especially if they accumulate meanings and memories over many years and decades. Hollywood may produce fewer film remakes, series, and sequels now than in the 1930s and 1940s (the heyday of remaking), but today such movies are not only among the highest-grossing releases, they also come with a history, enjoy a huge cultural visibility, and exert a strong hold on the imagination. And Hollywood remaking as a practice continues to evolve, so that there is always work left to do.

Can you give us an example of a remake or franchise you discuss in the book? What does it show us about the film industry, cinematic aesthetics and larger cultural debates?

Throughout the book, I explore a number of movies such as the remakes of A Star Is Born, Stella Dallas, Psycho, or King Kong, the sequels of Blade Runner and Jumanji,or long-running franchises like Star Wars. One fascinating example I analyze is Ghostbusters because the all-female reboot, Answer the Call (2016), and the latest sequel, Afterlife (2021), are paradigmatic of a shift in the industry toward long-term serialization in which the past matters and establishes nostalgic connections between time, memory, and identity. In comparison to the Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989), the newer movies mark important strides in the development of visual effects technology. At the same time, the misogynistic and racist backlash against Answer the Call together with the highly controversial course correction the franchise has undertaken with Afterlife, spark important discussions about the politics of remaking, nostalgia, and ideas of (white franchise) legacies.

What was one of the most surprising insights from your research?

When I was working on the book, I had a genuine “aha” moment. I suddenly understood why I was so drawn to this research topic and questions of how film remakes, sequels, and franchises negotiate continuity and change and how they become entangled in the formation of memories and generational belonging. I am one of ca. 2.4 million Wendekinder – children born in the GDR between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, who grew up in two very different political and cultural systems. The German Reunification and the sweeping changes, uncertainty, and social and cultural instability that it entailed for East Germans marked my childhood and youth. But it was only as an adult that I realized that my cultural experiences were different and that I had little or no knowledge of popular American movies and franchises. My academic biography as a first-generation scholar in the discipline of American studies and my overarching interest in how popular culture and memory intersect make much more sense to me now.

What is one key insight you hope film scholars and students will take away from your book?

I hope that readers will see that remaking is a dynamic, historically evolving practice that thrives on serial patterns of repetition and variation and has always puzzled the industry and audiences. I also hope that readers gain an understanding of the rapidly growing field of remake studies and the different approaches to studying these movies. They might learn something about the use of labels like film remake, sequel, franchise, reboot or legacyquel. Above all, I hope readers will share my enthusiasm about engaging with these movies and exploring how they shape industry and culture.