Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What Is a Mockbuster?

Since I've spent a lot of time discussing Hollywood's penchant for delivering movies in pairs (e.g., "Deep Impact"/"Armageddon," or "Mission to Mars"/"The Red Planet"), I'm surprised I've never heard this term before: mockbuster.

"Transmorphers" (2007), a classic of the mockbuster genre.

From the Wikipedia entry on mockbusters (which I only discovered this week):
A mockbuster (sometimes also called a knockbuster or a drafting opportunity) is a film created with the apparent intention of piggy-backing on the publicity of a major film with a similar title or theme and is often made with a low budget. Most of the time these films are created to be released direct-to-video at the same time as the mainstream film reaches theaters or video outlets. 
Though it is possible to use properties of this sort to intentionally deceive consumers into mistakenly purchasing the derivative title (e.g., someone's grandmother thinks she is buying Transformers, but is actually getting Transmorphers), another possible intention is to provide legitimate add-on buying opportunity in the marketplace (e.g., customer enjoyed Will Ferrell's Land of the Lost and wants more in the same sub-genre, and buys/rents C. Thomas Howell's The Land That Time Forgot).
Note: None of the movies that I've previously identified as doubles would be considered mockbusters. With "Capote" and "Infamous," for instance, the producers didn't set out to make two movies on Truman Capote, it was just an absurd coincidence. (That's what makes it all the weirder.)

When two big-budget Hollywood films are created on the same topic, it's not an issue of one drafting off of the other — it's typically better to come out first.

One exception is "Armageddon." It came out after "Deep Impact," but grossed more money and seems to have embedded itself in our collective consciousness. When that meteor hit Russia last week, no one was saying, "This is totally like 'Deep Impact.'"