Top 10 Box Office Duels (Over The Same Material)

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Have you ever noticed how Hollywood likes to put out movies of similar material, almost at the same time? Sometimes,  it’s just a huge coincidence; there might just be a lot of interest in the subject at the time. However, when you start to see more than one picture in under a year about Wyatt Earp or talking ants, then you can bet there might be a story there. We have looked back to try and uncover those stories.

10. A Haunted House vs. Scary Movie 5

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A Haunted House Release Date: 01/11/2013

Scary Movie 5 Release Date:  04/12/2013

In 2000, the Wayans Brothers gave us the original Scary Movie. After the first sequel, the Wayans were dumped from their own franchise. The people that did the Airplane movies took over. Now, we are up to Scary Movie 5, at the same time that the Wayans have decided to re-enter the horror parody genre (which one could argue should never be this crowded) with the movie A Haunted House. Anna Faris (who starred in the first four Scary Movies)  has wisely checked out of both franchises at this point. This would not appear to be a cinematic duel that was especially called for, but it seems very personal for both sides. The scariest part of this whole thing is realizing what has happened to the careers of Scary Movie 5 stars Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, and Ashley Tisdale.

9. Hamburger Hill vs. Full Metal Jacket

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Hamburger Hill Release Date: August 28th, 1987

Full Metal Jacket Release Date: June 26th, 1987

Hamburger Hill and Full Metal Jacket were more a case of convergence, than any type of competition or vengeance. In 1986, Oliver Stone released Platoon to personal, as well as Academy Award-winning, glory. The next summer, you suddenly have two movies featuring platoons in Vietnam, made by acclaimed film makers. The truth of the matter is that both Full Metal Jacket (done by the legendarily meticulous Stanley Kubrick) and Hamburger Hill (directed by action director John Irvin) were both in the planning stages for at least five years before release. At the time though, it did seem reactionary, and that there was a glut of Vietnam platoon films coming out. The truth is that it was simply a subject of interest to the filmmakers at the time. Ultimately, Full Metal Jacket would take the greater share of the box office, with $46,357,676, while Hamburger Hill had to settle for $13,839,404.

8. Repossessed vs. Exorcist III

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Repossessed Release Date :  September 14th, 1990

Exorcist III Release Date:  August 17th,  1990

The Exorcist III was actually a deeply personal project to Exorcist writer William Peter Blatty. Blatty directed the film himself, and used the story that he wanted to use for Exorcist II: The Heretic. So he can’t have been too pleased when a goofy parody showed up in theaters at the same time. Repossessed had a limited release, but that did not stop the Leslie Nielsen spoof from appearing in some of the same theaters as Exorcist III. Adding to the confusion was the fact that Linda Blair, she of Exorcist fame, starred in Repossessed. So, asking to see the “new Linda Blair movie” would have led audiences to Repossessed rather than The Exorcist III. Obviously, Repossessed (at $1,382,462) did not take too many profits away from Exorcist III (a cool $26,098,424), but it did become an issue.

7. The Haunting vs. House on Haunted Hill

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The Haunting Release Date: July 23rd, 1999

House on Haunted Hill Release Date:  October 29th,  1999

In 1999, the whole Haunting versus House on Haunted Hill thing was even more confusing to audiences than Star Wars I.  The Haunting and House on Haunted Hill were both released in 1999, and were both based on the concept of a haunted house. They were both remakes of different haunted house movies, which both had the same name. In video stores the following year, trying to find one of these movies would lead you in four different directions. Neither of the 1999 versions of The Haunting or House on Haunted Hill were well-received critically, and only one fared well financially. The Haunting (powered by Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta Jones) fared better at the box office, netting $91,411,151. Zeta Jones was already a hot property, and Neeson had built-in Star Wars momentum going for him. In comparison, House On Haunted Hill did not become the next big trend in horror films, only pulling in $40,846,082.

6. Mission To Mars vs. Red Planet

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Mission To Mars Release Date: March 10th, 2000

Red Planet Release Date:  November 10th, 2000

At some point, people will learn that movies that even hint at Mars are likely to be box office poison. After Total Recall, it may have seemed like a great idea. However, there were dueling movies about Martian missions in the year 2000, both of which were disastrous to their companies’ bottom lines. Between Mission to Mars and Red Planet, studios spent nearly $200 million in production costs. This was for a total of about $80 million in domestic returns ($60,883,407 for Mission, and $17,480,890 for Red Planet.) Mission to Mars had the bigger studio (Disney) behind it, and Red Planet had the hotter actors (Val Kilmer and the Matrix’s Carrie-Ann Moss). Neither generated much response. Years later, Mars Need Moms as well as John Carter would also be legendary failures; can we all finally agree to shelf the whole Mars Movie thing until someone comes along to terraform the damn place? That might be worth a flick or two.

5. 1492: Conquest of Paradise vs Christopher Columbus: The Discovery

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1492 Release Date:  October 9th, 1992

Christopher Columbus: The Discovery Release Date :  August 21st, 1992

1992 was the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ famous voyage, so that explains the good money that was spent on both of these productions. 1492 was directed by acclaimed Alien director Ridley Scott, and Christopher Columbus was produced by the father/son team of the Salkinds.  Unfortunately, in retrospect. even one Columbus film seemed to be over-saturation of the market. Neither film made over ten million at the box office, not even close to recouping their production budget. In 2017, Columbus’ 525th anniversary will more than likely pass without a cinematic celebration.

4. Armageddon vs. Deep Impact

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Armageddon Release Date: July 1st, 1998

Deep Impact Release Date:  May 8th, 1998

In 1994, Disney animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg joined with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, to form DreamWorks. As a fledgling studio, they would often partner with other studios to defray costs of production. There was also considerable animosity between DreamWorks and Disney. This led to many projects in the 1990’s which covered similar (or exactly the same) material by both companies.  Armageddon and Deep Impact both covered the territory of asteroids or meteors hitting Earth. As a matter of fact, Disney chief Joe Roth spent additional ad money just to differentiate the two films. Ultimately, Disney would win the box office battle ($201,578,182 for Armageddon vs. $140,464,664 for Deep Impact.) However, bad blood would get even worse later on.

3. Antz vs. A Bug’s Life

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Antz Release Date: October 2nd, 1998

A Bug’s Life Release Date:  November 20th, 1998

Many of these duels may have been a mixture of time or a common interest, but Antz vs. A Bug’s Life was a pure blood feud. Pixar head John Lasseter stated that he pitched the idea for A Bug’s Life the day that Katzenberg left Disney. Katzenberg stated that the idea for Antz went back to 1991, and Disney countered that there had been an ant-themed property in development since 1988. As such, the DreamWorks-released Antz, and Disney/Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, wound up being released a little over a month apart. As with the Deep Impact/Armageddon releases, DreamWorks released their film first, and wound up making less profit ($90,757,863, while Pixar collected $162,798,565.) The bad blood would never seem to truly subside.

2. Wyatt Earp vs. Tombstone

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Wyatt Earp Release Date :  June 24th, 1994

Tombstone Release Date: December 24th, 1993

Originally, director Kevin Jarre, Kurt Russell, and Kevin Costner were going to make a film about the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, called Tombstone. Jarre would write and direct, Russell and Costner would star. The three disagreed over the focus of the film and, while Russell would star in Tombstone as Wyatt Earp, Jarre was fired off of his own production, and Costner left the project completely to film his own version, Wyatt Earp, with Lawrence Kasdan. Eventually, Russell’s movie would be the victor in the box office ($56,505,065,) as well as in the memories of the public. Costner’s film featured many well-known actors, but its bloated, near-three hour running time killed it, with a mere $25,052,000 take. The irony is that Costner’s version featured a more accurate time frame of the legendary gunfight (which was under two minutes.) It would have been interesting to see what the three could have actually accomplished together.

1. Octopussy vs. Never Say Never Again

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Octopussy Release Date:  June 10th, 1983

Never Say Never Again Release Date:  October 7th, 1983

How exactly did two James Bond films get released in the same year, by two different studios, with two different actors, both of whom had previously played James Bond? The answer goes back to the rights to the James Bond novel Thunderball, which was not sold to Eon Productions, but to a group of independent producers who proceeded to sit on the thing for over 15 years.

Fast-forward to the early-80’s. Sean Connery had not played Bond for over a decade, after a disagreement over pay on You Only Live Twice. He was convinced to sign with the other company, and Never Say Never Again was filmed, as a remake of the original Thunderball movie, which was based on a totally different screenplay and not the novel (head hurt yet?) Connery was more than happy to thumb his nose at Eon, who countered with Octopussy, starring Connery’s once and future replacement, Roger Moore.

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Both films did well at the box office ($67,893,619 for Octopussy and $55,432,841 for Never Say Never Again.) Eventually, MGM would acquire rights to all Bond properties, so Daniel Craig is not going to have any direct Bond competition in multiplexes in the future.


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12 Comments

  1. i remember the 1998-1999 back-to-back films of saving private ryan and the thin red line. it was a year of three’s i guess because you also had the antz/bug’s life thing as well as the armageddon/deep impact fiasco.

    funny thing is that i liked all those movies (except for armageddon. areosmith ruined that for me…)

    the thing with the two war films is like what you stated, timing. of course who would deny a new film from terrance malick after a, what was it, 20 year absence from movie making?

    oh, and SPR should have won best pictue, but that’s a debate for another time. lol

  2. While Listverse recently released a live with the same premise most of these entries are different so i enjoyed reading it.

    there are plenty more throughout cinema history if you ever think of doing a sequel. (maybe focusing on squeals?) I’m just kidding there may not be enough material there.

  3. When I first read the topic, I immediately thought of the dueling Steve Prefontaine movies, 1997’s Prefontaine & 1998’s Without Limits.

    • Now that you mention the Prefonatine movies, I remember thinking that it was an intresting phenomenon at the time. I was a religious reader of Entertainment Weekly and they reported on it when it went on. I think I willgo back and research that on for my own enjoyment if nothing else. Thanks for the rememberance!

  4. A good one could have been “friends with benefits” and “no strings attached” both released around the same time

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