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'Footloose,' 'Ghostbusters,' and more: Risk-averse Hollywood remakes '80s films

'Footloose' is one of some 30 upcoming movies retreaded from a popular 1980s film. Hollywood hopes the blend of nostalgia and freshness will add up to box office gold.

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Dancer Kenny Wormald, who will fill Kevin Bacon's dancing shoes in the new remake of 'Footloose,' arrives at the 2011 MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles on June 5. 'Footloose,' whose trailer appeared Wednesday, is just one of dozens of newly-retreaded '80s films coming soon to theaters.

Danny Moloshok / Reuters / File

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As the trailer for the “Footloose” remake teases a whole new generation with the story of young people fighting for the freedom to dance, it’s clear that Hollywood’s fascination with the 1980s is here to stay. According to Variety, there are no fewer than 30 redos on studio dockets, including everything from “Red Dawn” to “Private Benjamin,” “Poltergeist,” and new installments of “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Ghostbusters.”

While familiar material is catnip to studio executives looking to cash in on audience nostalgia, this particular decade hits the sweet spot right now.

“Younger audiences haven’t seen the originals, and older viewers might just be curious enough to buy a ticket to see what the updated version looks like,” says film studies expert Wheeler Winston Dixon.

“There this perfect symbiosis with the 1980s,” says Dwight DeWerth-Pallmeyer, director of communication studies at Widener University in Chester, Penn. “There is enough distance for nostalgia, but not so much that the kids can’t relate,” he says.

A town that clamps down on teen behavior as a result of a tragedy, he adds, can spur conversation for families.

In the original version, starring Kevin Bacon – made in 1984 for only $8 million – the crash that takes the lives of a carload high school students is mentioned but never shown. In the new version, the movie opens with the accident, framing the entire story with a grittier feel, points out Professor DeWerth-Pallmeyer.

Mining earlier eras is an old trick in Hollywood, points out Professor Dixon, editor of the Quarterly Review of Film and Video at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Scanning the list of upcoming titles, including “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” and “Police Academy,” he says via email, “Is there a spark of originality in any of these projects? Of course not, but that is the point.” Tapping familiar titles means studios can count on audiences to know what a “Ghostbuster” film is about, he says.

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