Friday, January 04, 2013

Two Movies on the Same Topic: Is It Better to Be First?

When news broke yesterday that the Ashton Kutcher biopic of Steve Jobs would be released in April, I worried about the impact on the other Jobs biopic (a seemingly superior project being written by Aaron Sorkin).

This got me thinking: When two movies are released on the same topic, which one of them is typically better — the first one or the second?

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in the first of two biopics.

Well, let's take a look. Because there are so many examples of this happening, there's plenty of data to evaluate. I'll use the Rotten Tomatoes rating for each film to gauge how good it was (the percentage shows how many critics gave the movie a positive review).

CANINE COPS
"K-9" (June 1989): 22%
"Turner and Hooch" (July 1989): 62% 
WYATT EARP
"Tombstone" (1993): 73%
"Wyatt Earp" (1994): 42% 
VOLCANOES
"Dante's Peak" (February 1997): 27%
"Volcano" (April 1997): 44% 
METEORS
"Deep Impact" (May 1998): 47%
"Armageddon" (July 1998): 39% 
COMPUTER-ANIMATED ANTS
"Antz" (October 1998): 95%
"A Bug's Life" (November 1998): 92% 
MAN'S LIFE IS REALITY SHOW
"The Truman Show" (1998): 95%
"Ed TV" (1999): 64% 
MAIN CHARACTER IS SECRETLY A GHOST
"The Sixth Sense" (1999): 85%
"The Others" (2001): 84% 
MARTIAN MISSION
"Mission to Mars" (March 2000): 25%
"Red Planet" (November 2000): 14% 
TRUMAN CAPOTE
"Capote" (2005): 90%
"Infamous" (2006): 72% 
SEPT. 11
"United 93" (April 2006): 91%
"World Trade Center" (August 2006): 69% 
VICTORIAN MAGICIANS
"The Illusionist" (August 2006): 74%
"The Prestige" (October 2006): 76% 
MALL SECURITY
"Paul Blart: Mall Cop" (January 2009): 33%
"Observe and Report" (April 2009): 51% 
ANIMATED SUPERVILLAINS TURN GOOD
"Despicable Me" (July 2010): 81%
"Megamind" (November 2010): 73% 
FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS
"No Strings Attached" (January 2011): 49%
"Friends With Benefits" (July 2011): 71% 
SNOW WHITE
"Mirror, Mirror" (March 2012): 50%
"Snow White and the Huntsman" (June 2012): 48%
Of the 15 film pairings here, the first movie was better 10 times. I wonder if part of the reason is that critics grow tired of the concept by the time they see the second film.

I'm not measuring box-office receipts here (we're trying to evaluate art, not commerce), but it seems likely that the first film scored better in that department too.

In any case, this doesn't bode well for the second Steve Jobs film.

However, you'll notice that Ashton Kutcher was in "No Strings Attached," which received worse reviews than "Friends With Benefits" despite being released first.