Over on imgur, user CircadianHour posted a list of "twin movies." They're movies that have incredibly similar premises, and they came out around the exact same time. One example is Volcano and Dante's Peak, two volcano disaster films from 1997.
You can probably think of dozens of examples of this strange phenomenon. CircadianHour's list alone has 29 examples. Which raises the question, why do studios release movies so similar to each other, so close together?
CircadianHour also posted this list on Reddit, resulting in a very popular thread. As you would expect, the discussion included trying to figure out why similar movies come out at the same time. Like with these two cave movies from 2005, wouldn't movie goers get confused, or think one is a ripoff?
As it turns out, a couple people on Reddit had some pretty good theories explaining this phenomenon. Is it just a coincidence that two studios had similar ideas at the same time? According to these Redditors, the answer is no.
According to tossedsaladandscram on Reddit, it's because studios have many scripts that they're sitting on, just waiting to be produced. Many will never even get produced at all. But if a similar movie is announced by another studio, that changes.
As tossedsaladandscram explained, "Remember how there were two 'black president' movies at the same time? One with Chris Tucker, one with Chris Rock? That's because as soon as studio 1 hears that studio 2 is starting production on their 'black president' movie, studio 1 pulls the 'black president' script that it owns, and tries to finish the movie faster."
In fact, tossedsaladandscram added, "I was talking to my alumni mentor, who is head of development at one of the big studios, and he said at least once a month someone tells him that he should make a movie about Houdini, but that they can't do that because every studio owns a Houdini script, and if they started production, the other five studios would immediately start production on a Houdini movie too, and they'd lose money." And that's why the chance of seeing a Houdini has disappeared.
So in the Houdini example, having five of the same movie would be too much competition. They'd cannibalize each other's revenue and not be worth producing. So why is two of the same movie perfectly acceptable?
Reddit's Ducksaucenem explained further why it's to a studio's advantage to produce a twin movie. When you think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense. As sic
3 points observed, "I imagine that they can piggyback on the publicity of the first movie as well."
Ducksaucenem agreed, saying the twin movies benefit from "Shared marketing. (Dreamworks) might not have the budget that (Pixar) has to market something. But if someone says "I want to see that new bug cartoon", but mom buys Ants instead of Bug's Life, well that's a win for (Dreamworks). Bug movies are what's hot right now because someone paid to make them hot. Why not cash in for less?"
In other words, a similar movie can simply swoop in and take some of the original's marketing and buzz and use it as its own. And the fact that there's more than one movie about a topic creates some additional buzz too. All of a sudden, people are wondering why there are two kids movies about evil supervillains, and that means more exposure for both films.
Redditor moneyball32 added, "I remember when the The Illusionist/Presitge came out. I thought I was paying to see what I thought was The Prestige. It turned out to be The Illusionist. However, I ended up thoroughly enjoying The Illusionist, which I thought was The Prestige and then later saw The Prestige and realized it was The Prestige. That's my story." And if you could follow that, you might just be a magician yourself.
This example is a little different from the others. Taken came out in 2008, but Stolen wasn't released in 2012. However, 2012 was the year that Taken 2came out, so it seems likely that Stolen was designed to cash in. Without having seen it, we can only assume that Nicholas Cage at some point says, "I have a very specific collection of skills."
With many twin movies, one movie clearly came out on top. Now, we're not going to say if Babe is a better or worse movie than Gordy. But that's because, like many people, we have never heard of Gordy until right now.
These two movies take you back to 1989. It was a simpler time, when dogs could be police officers and everyone was okay with it. It was also a strange time, when Tom Hanks and Jim Belushi basically had the same career.
So the next time you notice twin movies, you'll know it's not some magic Powder or a supernatural Phenomenon. It's probably just movie studios trying to make as much money as possible. (And if you want to see CircadianHour's 29 examples of twin movies, click here.)