Not to be confused with “Mockbusters“, which are low budget knock offs, the term “Twin Films” is used to describe two major motion pictures that are released by competing studios using a similar or identical concept. For example Tombstone, and Wyatt Earp were both biographical dramas about the famous real life western marshal. As with most “Twin Films” they were released very close together.
Some other examples include, Dante’s Peak and Volcano which were both about erupting volcanoes, Deep Impact and Armageddon about a killer asteroid, and two recent feature films about the mythological hero Hercules.
The proliferation of Twin Films seems to rise and fall, but the phenomenon has been around since movie cameras started rolling. Some attribute these Twin Films to studio spies, the incidental movement of staff between studios, the same screenplay having been seen by multiple studio executives, or just a good idea relevant to topical issues that found more than one voice.
Whatever the circumstances surrounding a particular pair of “Twin Films” coming to theaters may be, it’s part of what Mark Twain would probably describe as the Kaleidoscope effect. The literary author was once quoted as saying…
“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”