March 17 2010 12:00 AM

It’s ’80s redux: Remakes pour into cineplexes

Two weeks ago, Celebration! Cinema posted a link on its Facebook page to the trailer for the remake of “The Karate Kid.” The comments quickly poured in.

“I would love to see some new ideas come out of the big studios — the remake thing is killing me,” one Facebook follower complained. “I think they have remade every cult horror movie and now they are going to remake every chees(y) ‘80s movie. I mean, what’s next. Is nothing sacred?”

“Come on, Hollywood — get creative and original!” another commenter wrote.

Don’t hold your breath. For better or for worse, the ‘80s are back in full force, at least at your local cineplex. April will bring remakes of “Clash of the Titans” (originally filmed in 1981) and “Nightmare on Elm Street” (first done in 1984). In June, “The Karate Kid” will do battle with “The A Team,” inspired by the mid-1980s TV series. July brings “Predators,” director Robert Rodriguez’s attempt to re-energize the franchise launched by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987 sci-fi shocker.

And August will assault your eyes with “The Smurfs” and “Piranha,” both in 3D and both taken from once-lucrative commodities. “Smurfs” was a saccharin Saturday morning staple for years; the serio-comic shocker “Piranha” was first filmed in 1978, although it became a cult favorite via endless showings on cable TV in the early 1980s.

If you need a little more Morning in America nostalgia, Michael Douglas returns as fearsome financial whiz Gordon Gecko in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” writer-director Oliver Stone’s long-gestating sequel. How long has it been since Gecko’s last appearance? Well, when the first movie opened, Douglas’ current “Money” co-star, Shia LaBeouf, was all of 18 months old.

The holiday season will bring “Red Dawn,” based on the testosterone-fueled 1984 kill-the-Commies melodrama, and “Tron: Legacy,” in which Jeff Bridges returns to the virtual world he first visited in 1982.

That’s not all: If it hadn’t been for behind the-scenes problems that led to director Kenny Ortega making a hasty exit, we’d be faced with a new take on Kevin Bacon’s 1984 sizzler “Footloose” this summer. The project, tentatively slated to star Chace Crawford and Julianne Hough in the roles originated by Bacon and Lori Singer, is now in limbo (which may be all for the best).

For many, the mere idea of these remakes and follow-ups is about as welcome as a locust infestation. Nor does a well-known title automatically guarantee a box office bonanza.

Last September, MGM invested heavily in a glitzy reworking of the 1980 smash “Fame”; not only did it not “live forever” or “light up the sky like a flame,” it was dead in the water within a week.

In fact, the 2009 “Fame” was practically a blueprint of how not to do a remake. The enduring appeal of the original lay in its combination of gritty, street-smart characters and show-bizzy sentimentality. Director Alan Parker’s 1980 film was an R-rated drama that tackled such topics as drug abuse, abortion, interracial romance and coming to terms with latent homosexuality.

But there was scarcely a trace of anything resembling reality in the update, which scrubbed away the tough talk and tensions of the earlier film to create what might as well have been the fourth “High School Musical” installment. It made even the severely softened-up “Fame” TV series seem raunchy by comparison. No wonder it was scorned by audiences of all ages.

But faced with the ever-escalating costs of making and distributing a film, it’s understandable that filmmakers would rather throw their weight behind a time-tested concept potential ticket-buyers already know.

After all, ’70s nostalgia worked wonders for the screen versions of "Charlie’s Angels" and "The Brady Bunch." While “Fame” flopped hard, early audience research indicates “Clash of the Titans” seems to be shaping up as a potential crossover hit.

As the dazzling receipts — over $200 million in 10 days — on director Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” prove, a familiar idea can sometimes be potent bait at the box office. It remains to be seen which of these relics from the age of the torn sweatshirt and the boom-box can once again bring in the crowds.

For reviews see Cole Smithey’s Movie week at