Why are so many classic films being remade? ''The Longest Yard,'' ''Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,'' and ''The Pink Panther'' are just a few that are currently in production

By Missy SchwartzLiane Bonin and Nicholas Fonseca
June 25, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Yes, there was on-set rancor, last-minute reshoots, and weeks of negative press before its release. But perhaps the biggest hurdle that ”The Stepford Wives” had to overcome was its pedigree: It’s another friggin’ remake!

While the practice is nothing new in Hollywood, movie studios seem to be suffering from a sweaty case of remake fever — but it may soon break. ”Stepford” may have scored a respectable opening ($21.4 million), but tepid reviews and dismal CinemaScores are likely to make it difficult for Paramount to recoup its investment. A retelling of 1956 Oscar winner ”Around the World in 80 Days” opened June 16, and on July 30 a redo of the 1962 political thriller ”The Manchurian Candidate” rolls out with Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington stepping in for Angela Lansbury and Frank Sinatra.

Has Hollywood run out of ideas? No way, says screenwriter Paul Rudnick, who turned ”Stepford,” a creepy B movie, into a post — women’s lib black comedy. ”I would hope that audiences wouldn’t want simply a duplicate,” he says. ”You want to surprise them.”

But not too much: Recent horror reduxes ”The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and ”Dawn of the Dead” stayed true to their predecessors’ gory spirit, grossing a healthy $80 million and $59 million, respectively. Hollywood never frowns on box office success; thus, development rosters around town drip with titles both classic (”Harvey,” ”The Seven Samurai”) and not so (”Porky’s,” ”The Shaggy Dog”). Here’s a look at some high-profile two-timers in the works:

THE LONGEST YARD How do you top Burt Reynolds’ crowd-pleasing 1974 football farce? Draft audience faves Adam Sandler and Chris Rock, enlist critical darling Gary Oldman as the prison warden, and make sure Reynolds can appear as the coach. Exec producer David Gale says this MTV Films production ”is going to be a smart, fun version that doesn’t feel stuck in the ’70s. It’s going to star everyone from football players to rappers. And it is not ‘The Waterboy.”’ (Whew!) Gale also plans to nod to the recent parade of felonious sports stars making news. (Opening May 27, 2005)

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY Fans of the 1971 adaptation (and there are many) bristled when Warner Bros. announced plans to revisit Roald Dahl’s whimsical tale. Luckily for them, dream duo Tim Burton and Johnny Depp signed on. Screenwriter John August says his nonmusical version harks back to the first Burton-Depp collaboration, ”Edward Scissorhands.” ”There was something diabolical about Gene Wilder’s Willy,” says August. ”The [Willy Wonka] that Johnny Depp is inhabiting is considerably more innocent. He’s not a miscreant.” August promises a fuller look at Charlie Bucket’s family life and says ”great big funny sections” of Dahl’s book (as well as characters that went unused in the first go-round) are back. As long as Slugworth’s still popping up to torment Charlie, we’re there! (July 15, 2005)