Why do many Hollywood movies come in twos?

“Robin Hood”

“Armageddon”/“Deep Impact”

“Antz”/“A Bug’s Life”

and so forth, the names may change slightly but the subject matter is remarkably similar and so are the release dates. Is there some sort of Marketing Research department that advises movie companies on what the public wants? Are the movie companies shamelessly ripping off each other’s ideas? Does one movie exist to feed off the success of the other?

What is the straight dope on this?

Volcano / Dante’s Peak

Double Jeopardy / Double Jeopardy
I have noticed this myself. WTF is going on?

Coincidence, usually. In most of the cases mentioned, the two production companies didn’t realize what the other was doing until things were too far along to quit.

There’s also

The Tower/The Glass Inferno = The Towering Inferno (one of the few cases when the two production companies pooled resources and turned the two movies into one)

Hollywood production companies rely on marketing surveys and studies to determine what types of movies are ripe to make the big bucks. Studios have scripts and directors willing to direct the scripts up the ying-yang; it’s often years and years between the time a script gets purchased by a studio and the time it gets produced. Studios pile up a big inventory of potential movies and select which ones to produce based on what they think will sell. A major Hollywood studio will only produce 20-30 movies a year or so, but they’ve got a lot of them on the back burner, ready to pump them out when the time is right.

So when studios learn that a particular kind of movie could be a big seller, it’s often the case that two or more studios have an appropriate script ready to go with a director lined up; hence, “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Thin Red Line” were released in the same year, or “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact.”

Movies take far too long to make to have one studio rip off another that quickly; the time from script acquisition to release is never less than twelve months and usually more.

I read an article on this a while back. The article said that it’s gamesmanship by the studios. A studio lears that another studio has a project in development:

“Hey, sounds like a good idea. Let’s try to beat them to the theaters with a knockoff.”

And the race is on.

In several instances cited by the article, both movies sprang from the same original pitch, and in some cases, writers and other creative folks split off from one project early on, then went and pitched a similar project to another studio.

RealityChuck said:

Which actually adds to the “released in twos” image, bizzarely enough. Company A will be plodding along with its Movie Type A, then find out that Company B is making its own Movie Type A. Both Company A and Company B realize that whomever gets first out the door gets a serious advantage (movie-goers will consider the one released later derivative, even if it was thought up earlier; in addition, all reviews of the later-released one will likely draw comparisons to the first one) and so they start pushing production in order to get their own movie out first. End result- both movies come out within about the same time period.

One additional thought on this: a singleton film is just a film. Two films on the same thing attract your attention, and you write the Straight Dope. By the time you get to three films on a subject, you’ve got yourself a genre.