Mirror Images: 9 More Occasions When Hollywood Made Similar Movies at the Same Time

Snow White and the Huntsman - Mirror Mirror

This weekend welcomes Snow White and the Huntsman to theaters, mere months after Relativity's Mirror, Mirror preceded Universal's Kristen Stewart film in the race to produce live-action versions of the fairy tale that Disney animators arguably perfected decades ago. And odd as it is to behold this practice of two serpents eating the other’s tail, stranger still is the thought of a studio executive ensconced in a corner office, slamming his fist down on the old-growth polished conference table, and bellowing to the suits, "Dammit! Where in the hell is OUR Snow White script!?!?!"

Yet variations on this scenario are not so unique in Hollywood. Many of the actions surrounding these productions — wrestling over promotions, insistence of originality, chess games played with release dates — have played out for generations. Find below some of the more notable occasions when studio execs didn't let redundancy stop them from flashing the green light:

Dr. Strangelove - Fail-Safe

1964 - The Cold Shoulder War: Dr. Strangelove (Jan.) / Fail-Safe (Sept.)

With the Cold War at its peak, it came as little surprise that movies of the time might reflect the American public's fear, dread and paranoia. But these competing efforts bore many similarities for such wide, ripe terrain: Each had a major young director at the helm, a cast choked with stars, and a storyline about a rogue mission that may spark a global conflict. Stanley Kubrick’s ambitious Strangelove, based on the book Red Alert, took shape as a satirical indictment of the geopolitical climate. Sidney Lumet's Fail-Safe, meanwhile, sporting more of a spartan stage setting and relying on close-ups, hewed closer to the tense spirit of its own eponymous source novel. Many people found them more than similar — and for good reason.

Result: While both are hailed as classics, Strangelove stole much of Fail-Safe's thunder both culturally and financially — a predicament made all the more curious since Columbia released both films. (Kubrick reportedly lobbied the studio to release his movie first.) And despite Kubrick and co-writer Terry Southern's comic vision of his novel, Red Alert author Peter George sued the studio over Fail-Safe, accusing it of plagiarism because of the similarities in the stories.


K-9 - Turner & Hooch

1989 - Paw Enforcement: K-9 (April) / Turner & Hooch (July)
Studio experts must have test-marketed for — and found — results showing audiences salivating at the prospect of comedies with cops involuntarily partnered with a four-legged ride-along. How else to explain these mirrored attempts at mirth? The cops are given one-note characters (Jim Belushi is a loose-cannon loner, Tom Hanks a fastidious short-timer) simply to make the dog’s entrance more compelling; both films even have scenes of the hound destroying the interior of the beleaguered officer’s car.

Result: Neither did blockbuster numbers, but considering the low-concept redundancy, returns of $43 million for K-9 and $71 million for Turner & Hooch are nothing to bark at.


Deepstar Six - Leviathan - The Abyss

1989 - Plunging Returns: Deepstar Six (Jan.) / Leviathan (Mar.) / The Abyss (Aug.)
Was there something in the Hollywood water supply in 1989? Because executives sure had water on the brain that year, when audiences were actually given three identical deep-sea stories within an eight-month period. (To say nothing of straight-to-video efforts like The Rift and Endless Descent.) Incidentally, Deepstar was written by Lewis Abernathy, a pal of James Cameron's who was later cast in Titanic as the wisecracking best friend of Bill Paxton's character. In between their shared visions, MGM released its own deep-sea-alien hybrid film directed by George P. Cosmatos, (Rambo, Cobra), creating a viewing experience that almost produces the bends.

Result: The Abyss earned a paltry (by Cameron standards, anyway) $54 million, but it holds up far better than its lower-budget counterparts (Leviathan even dispensed with underwater photography; they shot in what is described as a “dry-wet” look), neither approached $10 million at the box office. Bonus points to Fox marketing for its poster touting The Abyss as "summer's most original adventure."


Christopher Columbus - 1492

1992 – Non-Event on the Horizon: Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (Aug.) / 1492: Conquest of Paradise (Oct.)
The 500th anniversary of Columbus finding America was deemed ripe for the plucking of historical events surrounding the explorer. Big names were used, sweeping epic visuals were displayed, and colons were inserted into the titles. Yet strangely, a subject that had long amounted to a cornerstone of many Americans' primary education was passed over by audiences of all ages.

Result: Both productions sported budgets well over $40 million both films drew the same paltry sum domestically, around $8 million.


Dante's Peak - Volcano

1997 - Blowing Their Tops: Dante’s Peak (February) / Volcano (April)
At one point in history, a tremor of excitement ran through Hollywood suggesting that volcanic eruptions would be next big thing. Universal gave us Dante’s Peak, a thriller with Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton loosely based on the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. Just a couple of months later came the 20th Century Fox version with Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche, a more traditional disaster film with large sets, a large cast and a large departure from reality as an eruption threatens Los Angeles. Given the lack of explosive imagery in Volcano audiences soon wondered why it had not been simply titled Lava instead.

Result: Although, of the pair, only Volcano enjoyed a No. 1 opening at the domestic box office, Dante's Peak far outgrossed the later effort with a global take of $178 million.


Deep Impact - Armageddon

1998 - You Bet Your Asteroid: Deep Impact (May) / Armageddon (July)
The prospect of our planet getting sucker-punched by a supernal rock form is the kind of disaster that carries the ultimate pathos: We are doomed, and there is nothing we can do about it. Unless you are Michael Bay, that is, because you'll just send oil-rig roughnecks into space to blow up the flying rock. Or unless you're Morgan Freeman, who, as the President in Deep Impact, collaborates with Russia to nuke the lethal comet. Crises averted? In one summer audiences were served up competing disaster films of similar size and scale, and who would have guessed there was an appetite for this sort of scientific chicanery?

Result: Both movies were hits, combining for more than $900 million at the worldwide box office.


Antz - A Bug's Life

1998 - Colony Thinking: Antz (Oct.) / A Bug’s Life (Nov.)
In the first real showdown between the established Pixar and the fledgling DreamWorks animation wing, ex-Disney boss Jeffrey Katzenberg claimed he was pitched the idea for Antz four years prior to his exit. Tension arrived when Pixar head John Lasseter said Katzenberg requested that Bug’s Life move its release date so as not to compete against DreamWorks’ animated title Prince of Egypt. When Lasseter declined, Antz had its release date changed from March '99 to just over a month before Bug’s Life.

Result: The bitterness did not hurt the box office: A Bug’s Life drew $363 million worldwide — more than twice Antz's global take of $171 million, yet both still proving milestones for both studios the viability computer animation.


Mission to Mars - Red Planet

2000 - Fourth Rock from Profitability: Mission to Mars (Mar.) / Red Planet (Nov.)
Talk about a studio not learning a lesson: While everyone is now familiar with the failure of John Carter, that release actually makes for the third time Disney has released a failed movie set on Mars – and all in the month of March (including Mars Needs Moms in March, 2011). Originally intended as a Gore Verbinski production, Mission to Mars wound up in the hands of Brian DePalma. Meanwhile, later in the year, Val Kilmer headed another mission to space — one said to be such a factual challenge to science that NASA backed away from assisting the production.

Result: Both titles experienced critical and commercial difficulty, with Mission to Mars barely breaking even and Red Planet bombing spectacularly with a global total of just $33 million.


The Illusionist - The Prestige

2006 - Sleight of Script: The Illusionist (Aug.) / The Prestige (Oct.)
Odd to think that studios would gravitate towards similar stories centered upon turn of the century magicians. Odder still that both would be critically favored and find strong audience reception. Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan actually spent years adapting the screenplay of The Prestige from Christopher Priest's novel of the same name, finally immersing himself in production for Warner Bros. following the success of his superhero reboot Batman Begins. Neil Burger's The Illusionist, meanwhile, debuted at Sundance in 2006, trickling out ahead of The Prestige in limited release.

Result: Both movies were warmly embraced critically and commercially and even nabbed nominations for their respective cinematographers Dick Pope and Wally Pfister. Neat trick, that.

Brad Slager has written about movies and entertainment for Film Threat, Mediaite, and is a columnist at CHUD.com. His less insightful impressions on entertainment can be found on Twitter.



Comments

  • Valmont (1989) and Dangerous Liaisons (1988), too.

  • Juicy says:

    What about friends with benefits and no strings attached? The premise is so similar but I feel that friends with benefits is the superior film

    • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

      There are a lot of others, to be sure. (Capote vs. Infamous, etc.) This list wasn't conceived or presented as comprehensive, just a cross-section of the phenomenon's history.

  • thetoken says:

    Tombstone vs Wyatt Earp. Separate years but 6 months apart. Tombstone is my favorite movie(not art, but something I could watch 10 times in a row and not get bored), and I have yet to see Wyatt Earp. To the Queue.

    • Joan says:

      @THETOKEN Don't bother with Wyatt Earp. It is looooooooong and nowhere near as good as Tombstone. Just watch Tombstone again.

  • bradslager says:

    Oh yea, there's actually gobs of these. Being constrained to just nine comparatives meant being selective. I'm still surprised neither of the two Christopher Columbus titles were done by New World Pictures.

  • RaviRavs says:

    Rob Roy vs. Braveheart - 1 month apart.

  • Paul Felix Schott says:

    A DAY WILL COME SOON ENOUGH

    ALL THAT EVER LIVED ON EARTH WILL SOON HAVE THEIR EYES TO THE HEAVENS

    Do a little History on this one.

    ALL Should Look Up "2012 DA14".

    This could take out one of more satellites and the junk and debris from the hit could end up taking out many more satellites very soon after that. All the satellite collision probability will go way up if even one is hit. The velocity that the parts would go to would make them missiles that would start targeting a chain reaction this would not be good.

    Most all will be watching this one and pray it goes by us without a hit. Every Scientist alive will be watching this event. Many will be in Florida for a very special viewing of the once in a Lifetime Event. Professors, Scientist, World Leaders, Ham Radio Operators and Every Astronomer will have its eyes on This Event, along with almost every TV set on Earth.

    "2012 DA14" goes by Earth twice a year and there is no way anyone for sure, can tell how close the second pass will be till it passes by the Moon and Earth and the GRAVITATIONAL FORCE effect that it will have on this Asteroid.

    They may come close but this one is already coming very close to begin with. Too close this time or on its second or 3rd pass? Ad a Meteor Shower like the 13 and 14 of December of 2012, it might go through or bump into one of them? Or all the other more then 20,00 pieces of orbital debris like Spent Rocket Boosters left in space that can no longer be moved by a control center on Earth. Or add a Solar Flare. Or a Comet ISON or its tail debris of millions of rocks of all sizes. Not to for get the 30,000+ pieces of space junk left from China in 2007 from showing the world it could shoot a decommissioned weather satellite in Space. Now add Asteroid 2013 BV15 into this on the 13 &14 of Feb 2013..

    Feb will have 12 of them from the 12 to the 16.

    If a big enough Asteroid were to slam into the moon in the night sky you would think the sun was coming up early only it would be 5 to 7 times as bright. From The Sun's Rays Reflection on all the Debris Field.

    2012 XM16, 2012 XM55, 2012 XP55, THERE ARE OVER 25 found just in the year 2012 that are part of the Near Earth Object Program that will come close to Earth from now till 2012 DA14 comes, Feb 14 - 16, 2013.

    You do not want to know how many are on the "PLANETARY DEFENSE" list.
    The PLANETARY DEFENSE is not to protect Earth from men from Mars.
    It is for all mankind with most all Nation in on it to stop if can most all collision with EARTH from a ASTEROID IMPACT. It is if you will a AVOIDANCE SHIELD. "N.E.O.S. Near Earth Object Shield".

    If only one were to hit or IMPACT EARTH on land get ready for a winter you will never forget. The winter from 1883 -1884 KRAKATOA you will think was a little pebble, and now the stone comes. Krakatoa was a great mountain till it erupted with fire and a blast heard thousands of miles away that cast that Great Mountain into the sea. The Shock Waves were felt around the Globe. The sea was full of Bodies from the Tsunamis more then 35,000 of them, the sea stayed red for weeks. 1884 was a year without a summer as the year 1816 was and many world wide Froze to Death.

    A Shock Wave was felt in England from a Event about 7:15 to 7:20 A.M. Siberia time in the morning in June of the year 1908 high in the sky above the Forest in the remote wilderness of Tunguska Siberia heard an explosion that laid flat more than 800 square miles of the forest with all the trees pointing away from the center of the blast with most all the trees laying on their side. Some trees that were right below the blast were still there looking like telephone poles with no bark or branches left on them. This Asteroid did not even hit the Ground and this is known by most as the TUNGUSKA EVENT. For all that lived there it was WORMWOOD Rev 8:11 the wood became full of worms and the rivers water no longer sweet and undrinkable.

    If a Meteor Shower is big enough you might think all the Stars are falling from Heaven.

    About one every 100 years makes it into the Earth’s Atmosphere big enough for all to take note. Some make it to the surface the signs are all over the Planet and moon from the ones that have.

    If you need a visual sign of a collided impact with a planet look to

    "SHOEMAKER - LEVY 9" July 1994.

    You Need More Look up "PROJECT WORMWOOD" Revelations 8: 10 - 11 based on the "TUNGUSKA EVENT" 1908

    MOSCOW Russia is now saying it will use missiles to intercept Asteroid if need be.

    Better to be safe then sorry.

    GET READY

    Read your Bible
    While you still can,
    and May our Lord GOD Bless all that do so.
    John 14 : 6
    Luke 13 : 27
    Matthew 7 : 20 - 27

    Matthew 12:39

    Matthew 24:3 - 14

    The Lord's Little Helper.
    Paul Felix Schott.

    December 2013 the Heavens above COMET "C/2012 S1", "ISON".

    The day will come when

    ALL ON EARTH WILL SEE THIS NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE. the night side of earth will become day and and day will be blinding bright. The Bow Shock from the Photo Electric Effect from the Sun's Solar Wind will really be something.

    Shortly there after you will think the stars are falling from the Heavens,

    REV 6:13,

    REV 16:21

    most will be between 60 to 80 pounds that will make it to the ground surface. Nonstop 12 to 14 hours at a time for two days.

    P.S.
    Help others in are Lord's name Jesus Christ help bring all to know him while you still can.
    Three kings that were wise men once flowed a star with a long tail 2,000 years ago. That lead them to Jesus Christ wise men still look to and hear are Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Dierdre says:

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