Mockbusters. Breaking Records, not the Bank.

Posted by Flux on 

5 March 2014


What’s trending now?

A great white shark flung into the smoggy L.A. air by a freak tornado is bisected by a chainsaw-wielding hero. That’s the least startling thing about a scene in Sharknado. What’s more astonishing about the film is that it was seen by more than 1 million people and 300,000 tweeted about it the night of its premiere on the Syfy network.

 Sharknado is just one example of mockbusters; a new film genre defined by the internet generation’s insatiable demand for off-beat, cheap content.
By and large, mockbusters are created to be released direct-to-video and online at the same time as the mainstream film reaches theatres.

Why it’s important

These movies resemble contemporary films but are produced in a fraction of the time (months instead of years) with a budget of usually less than $500,000. Despite their poor quality, these films are finding an ever-growing audience and are becoming a booming business.

Veteran producer and executive Kathryn Arnold believes it’s all about low-risk, high-rewards: “Taking the blockbuster genre, storyline and creating low-budget versions mitigates risk–the storyline has already been tested and satisfies the audience’s hunger for content. If the mockbuster hits a chord with the audience, the fan-generated buzz takes hold, and people flock to see it.”

What’s the butterfly effect?

Known in the movie industry as ‘drafting opportunities’, the ripple-effect of mockbusters rip-offs has resulted in high returns for a much lower spend. For example, the original Puss in Boots was made by DreamWorks by 300 people working for four years at the cost of $130 million. The mockbuster, with nearly exactly the same name was made by 12 people in six months for less than $1 million. For these large production houses, it wasn’t just a question of free riding on the marketing success of these more popular films, mockbusters have become a source of bad publicity.

For large production houses, it isn’t just a question of a free ride on the marketing success of popular films. Mockbusters are creating negative publicity for the original movie. Customers who had accidentally bought the mockbuster Puss in Boots: A Furry Tale, but were unaware that it was a mockbuster, gave the original movie bad reviews.

It’s not all laughter all the way to the bank for mockbuster production companies.

In December of 2012 the joint production and distribution company, The Asylum, was sued by Warner Brothers over their film titled Age of the Hobbits. The film doesn’t particularly have anything to do with Tolkein’s little people, but its title was similar enough to spark Warner Brothers into a fiasco and lawsuit. As a result Age of the Hobbits was slapped with a restraining order, and had its December 11th release date pushed back.

The global hotspot

There is only global hotspot for mockbusters and there is no Oscar award for guessing that it’s …America. Busting with fast and furious mockbusters, The Asylum is a notorious direct-to-video studio which produces films with dangerously similar plots and titles to large Hollywood films. Their objective is to piggyback on the success or con some ill-informed member of society into purchasing the film as a gift, or coax savvy consumer into purchasing their titles as a joke with tacky, tweaked film titles which include, Snakes on a Train, Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, Transmorphers, and Sunday School Musical.

And the Oscar goes for not paying a cent for sought-after licenses which cost Hollywood top dollar, goes to… The Asylum

By: Raleen Bagg

About Raleen


Advertising industry refugee. Freelance writer, full time participant in all that is intriguing, expressive, fascinating, stimulating, startling and surprising. From time to time, reading, painting, photography and restaurants seduce me away from the keyboard.

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