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Everybody perhaps knows of Jon Favreau's movie The Jungle Book which is going to be released in 2016. But quite recently I learned (and to my utter surprise) that another Jungle book movie is coming in 2017 and it's called Jungle Book: Origins.

Now, this movie has big names too with Christian Bale as Baghera, Benedict Cumberbatch as Sher Khan, Cate Blanchett as Kaa and a young Indian boy in the live action role as Mowgli.

How often does this happen, with two big productions with big cast making a movie on the same subject? I want to ask why this is happening and if there are any really significant differences between the two (apart from the cast, of course).

11

Sometimes, people have the same idea at the same time. A few notable times this has happened:

  • Tombstone and Wyatt Earp
  • Antz and A Bugs Life
  • Mission To Mars and Red Planet
  • The Abyss and Deep Star Six and Leviathan
  • 1492: Conquest of Paradise and Christopher Columbus: The Discovery
  • Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman
  • Armageddon and Deep Impact
  • Capote and Infamous
  • Dante's Peak and Volcano
  • Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down
  • Gordy and Babe
  • Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line
  • No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits

In all these cases, the movies were released within a few months of each other.

  • 1
    Do you have any sources to back up that it was different people coming up with the same idea? I always thought (and the source you've provided supports) that it was the same idea that diverges into two separate films that have a different story focus. – Mike.C.Ford Jan 26 '16 at 14:15
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    I'd have to research them, or someone else could and just edit my answer. I was just going from the top of my head, and I had read that Wiki page about Tombstone/Earp a year or so ago when I was wondering why both movies were released around the same time so I knew where to grab that reference. I'm sure there's even more of them (didn't edTV and The Truman Show come out around the same time too?), but I do have a full-time job. ;o) – Johnny Bones Jan 26 '16 at 14:19
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    @Mike.C.Ford It happens for many reasons, really. – Walt Jan 26 '16 at 14:31
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    There were two Hercules movies a couple of years ago, one starring Dwayne Johnson and one starring somebody who wasn't Dwayne Johnson. – Anthony Grist Jan 26 '16 at 14:31
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    From my various readings (which I don't have time to link to here, or I'd make this a proper answer), my impression is that a lot of these answers, and the Wiki page, miss the psychology of the movie biz. There's a weird duality between competitiveness ("we'll make an EVEN BETTER gritty reboot of Snow White") and fear ("the public wants movies about volcanoes---we'd better make a movie about volcanoes!"). You can find supporting anecdotes in books about the Golden Age of Hollywood. (I'll add some links later if I have a chance.) – moviegique Mar 18 '16 at 20:16
9

This is a case of what is known as "Twin Films". I'm not sure who coined the phrase exactly but there is a Wikipedia article which details some of the reasons that twin films are made and there is also a pretty comprehensive list of examples.

Some possible reasons that twin films occur as mentioned in the article are:

  1. Two or more production companies investing in similar scripts around the same time
  2. Industrial espionage
  3. The movement of staff between studios
  4. The same screenplays are sent to several film studios before being accepted
  5. Films dealing with topical issues, such as volcanic eruptions, reality television, terrorist attacks or significant anniversaries, resulting in multiple discovery of the concept

Twin Films

Twin films are films with the same, or very similar, plot produced or released at the same time by two different film studios. The phenomenon can result from two or more production companies investing in similar scripts around the same time, resulting in a race to distribute the films to audiences. Some attribute twin films to industrial espionage, the movement of staff between studios, or that the same screenplays are sent to several film studios before being accepted. Another possible explanation is if the films deal with topical issues, such as volcanic eruptions, reality television, terrorist attacks or significant anniversaries, resulting in multiple discovery of the concept.

Screenwriter Terry Rossio notes that there are always multiple film projects with similar subjects being developed in multiple studios while usually only one of them makes it into production in a given period of time, and therefore twin films are better regarded as exceptions. In one case, for the 1974 film The Towering Inferno, the fear of having competing action thrillers, both set in a burning skyscraper, convinced two Hollywood studios to merge their productions into one (all-star) film.

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