About the project

Are you looking for more information about the HOLLYWOOD MEMORIES project? If so, you landed on the right page. Here we explain what the research project is all about, what we want to find out and how you can get involved. We also give some background information about Hollywood movies and about Hollywood‘s love affair with remakes and sequels. Maybe you are also interested in the research that has been done so far?

Movies are omnipresent. And there are many characters and narrative worlds that accompany us throughout our lives. Think, for example, of KING KONG, whose story has been told again and again in remakes, or of seemingly endless film franchises such as STAR WARS, ROCKY, INDIANA JONES and HALLOWEEN, which have generated sequels over many years and decades.

Our research project HOLLYWOOD MEMORIES suggests that the repetition and serialized continuation of familiar material — in the form of remakes, sequels, and reboots — encourages an ongoing engagement with the stories, characters, and storyworlds made in Hollywood. The repeated return of the already-known generates, maintains, and firmly anchors memories, as each new movie with HAN SOLO, KARATE KID, JOHN McCLANE or the GHOSTBUSTERS reminds viewers of previous installments. Such memories of Hollywood movies become entwined with memories of certain life stages and can shape feelings of generational belonging.

The global reach of Hollywood cinema plays an important role in these considerations. What does it mean that many of the films mentioned here are watched around the world? Does Hollywood, through the repetition and serial unfolding of familiar stories over many years and decades, create a shared film repertoire that shapes memories, lived experiences, and generational identities of viewers in a globalized world?

In our research project HOLLYWOOD MEMORIES we want to explore how Hollywood films are remembered and how they constitute generations (or: movie generations).

On the one hand, we are interested in mnemonic processes, in which Hollywood movies become thoroughly entangled with lived experiences in specific historical and cultural contexts: life stages (childhood, youth, adulthood, late life), social practices and spaces (like going to the movie theater but also watching movies at home, with different media technologies, with family or friends), and cultural and geopolitical contexts of reception (taking into account the availability of movies as well as textual polysemy and interpretive agency).

On the other hand, we want to examine what happens when remakes, sequels, and reboots bring back formative movies, characters, storyworlds, and also movie experiences from childhood and adolescence in later life stages. We suggest that these movies provide temporal markers that synchronize ongoing narrative and technological evolution on the part of the movies with the viewers’ lives and instill a sense of generational belonging.

The aim of our research project HOLLYWOOD MEMORIES is to study this generational construction of a “we-sense” and to examine whether the global and enduring presence of Hollywood films forges global movie generations. If remakes, sequels and reboots stand for the the persistent return of the familiar, do narrative images, characters, storyworlds, and stars become meaningful points of reference and identification? In more general terms, we want to find out how popular culture, media, and memory shape different generations of viewers. At the same time, the project aims to open up new pathways of investigation and makes a case for quantitative and qualitative research methods in the humanities.

Over the course of the 20th century, Hollywood has become the largest, most prolific and highest-grossing film industry in the world, steadily expanding its global reach. From the beginning, a key ingredient of Hollywood cinema has been the recycling of familiar material. With the introduction of talkies in the late 1920s and early 1930s, for example, many silent films were remade with new actors and sound; the 1970s mark the rise of the sequel; and since the turn of the millennium, there has been an increase in so-called prequels, reboots, and legacyquels (which are not always easy to distinguish from each other).

The fact is that Hollywood has retold familiar stories over and over again, that popular characters return regularly and their adventures and storyworlds thus remain present in our everyday lives over the course of many years. Think, for example, of KING KONG or A STAR IS BORN, which have been remade 3 and 4 times in the past 80 years, but also of the sequels to STAR WARS, ROCKY and INDIANA JONES, which have been with us for several decades now. There are film series like JAMES BOND that have been running since the 1960s, with new actors slipping into the role of the secret agent 007 to fulfill the next mission, and there are reboots like PLANET OF THE APES, BATMAN or SPIDER-MAN, which revive a well-known but creatively exhausted or too expensive franchise through new (mostly unknown) actors and filmmakers as well as narrative, aesthetic and technological innovations.

In our project HOLLYWOOD MEMORIES, we call the practice with which Hollywood repeats and continues familiar material remaking.

HOLLYWOOD MEMORIES is organized around case studies in four different countries. Each case study combines (1) historical inquiry, (2) quantitative and qualitative methods, and (3) film analysis. From a Humanities perspective, empirical audience research using questionnaires and interviews represents at once the most innovative but also the most challenging instrument in our methodological toolbox. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we switch to online formats with the questionnaire and interview and have revised our research design.

The case studies focus on the USA, Germany, Mexico, and China, where we want to ask participants about their memories of, experiences with, and attitudes toward Hollywood movies and the practice of remaking. The USA represent the domestic market, Germany a former U.S. occupation zone with reeducation policies, Mexico a postcolonial state troubled by its relations to the USA, and China a communist country that banned U.S. cultural products for decades. The approach understands remaking as a global practice that is embedded, both biographically and technologically, in the lives of viewers. Remaking offers meaningful structures, and thus plays a a formative role in the shaping of selfhood and in the construction and maintenance of communal coherence.

We know very little about the ways in which movies impact our sense of belonging to a generation. The information you provide in the context of the HOLLYWOOD MEMORIES project will help us to better understand how we use movies and whether they can encourage the construction of a generational we-sense. What is special about the project is that it focuses on the perspective of movie audiences and their memories. So far, both have only played a minor role in research.

Register now to participate in the HOLLYWOOD MEMORIES project!

You want to be part of the project and share your memories of Hollywood movies with us? Then register here to participate. We will let you know when the questionnaire is launched on our digital research platform.

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