Discuss: Will The Asylum Ever Get a Theatrical Release?
Imagine a world where you could go to your local 30-plex to see the latest, Summer blockbuster. You’ve scraped all your pennies and nickels together to buy a ticket to the latest, mega-budget extravaganza. You walk into the lobby of the theater and look up at the marquee. Alas, ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ is completely sold out. That’s what you get for showing up to the theater five minutes before the movie starts.
But, wait. You look across the marquee at what other, fine pieces of cinema in which you can partake. What do you see? Adjacent to the slot showing all the timeslots for the Michael Bay film is a slot full of open times for some film called ‘Transmorphers: Fall of Man.’
‘Transmorphers: Fall of Man’?
In your mind (you know, the same one that told you to show up to the theater just before the trailers begin), this is surely just as good as the Michael Bay film. Chances are, this one doesn’t feature Shia LaBeouf, either.
Yeah, this is a far-fetched scenario, but is there any reality to be taken from it? Could we, someday, see a theatrical release for a film distributed by a little known company called The Asylum. You see, as far-fetched a notion as this might be, there really is a film called ‘Transmorphers: Fall of Man,’ and The Asylum is behind it. They are also behind other, cheap knockoffs of blockbuster, Hollywood films that grace your local video stores shelves the same week the genuine articles are released to theaters.
Instead of ‘Transformers,’ we get ‘Transmorphers.’ Instead of ‘Terminator Salvation,’ we get ‘The Terminators.’ Instead of ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ we get ‘The Da Vinci Treasure.’ Instead of ‘Snakes on a Plane,’ we get ‘Snakes on a Train.’ Instead of ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,’ we get ‘Alan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls.’ You get the idea, I’m hoping.
This is just a start, too. Since 1997, The Asylum has been behind the production and distribution of 179 films. Founded by David Rimawi and Sherri Strain, two, former executive of Village Roadshow, along with director David Michael Latt, the company attempted to find a foothold in horror market. Unable to break into theaters due to competition from other companies like Lionsgate and Artisan, the company had to settle on purchasing and distributing films to video stores.
It achieved a slight amount of success in 2003 when it produced the Stuart Gordon-directed ‘King of the Ants.’ However, not even that film could break into movie theaters, and most of the company’s near-200 releases have fallen into a chasm of obscurity.
In 2005, the company produced and released ‘H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds,’ a low-budget adaptation of the novel that was released the same year as the Spielberg blockbuster. Based on the title and the market that could generate alone, Blockbuster Video purchased 100,000 copies of the film, and this gave The Asylum the strategy they continue to incorporate today.
In the four years since, The Asylum has produced and released 18 other such “mockbusters” (Latt prefers the term “tie-ins”). Exact numbers are difficult to come by, but The Asylum has not had a DVD release break the weekly top 50 rentals since that 2005 release of ‘War of the Worlds.’ None of their others films, not ‘I Am Omega,’ ‘AVH: Alien Vs. Hunters,’ or even ‘Sunday School Musical’ have been able to match the success of that first “mockbuster.” And that’s even with such star power as C. Thomas Howell, Mark Dacascos, William Katt, and Judd Nelson to back the film up. C. Thomas, the ‘Soul Man’ himself, even directed ‘War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave’ and ‘The Day the Earth Stopped.’
The latter film Mr. Howell directed brought on a cease-and-desist letter from 20th Century Fox, who was distributing their remake of ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still.’ While details on the outcome of this legal action from Fox remain unclear, ‘The Day the Earth Stopped’ still came out on its scheduled release date. Having not seen The Asylum’s film, I can’t say whether it is better or worse than the Keanu Reeves-starring, $80-million-budgeted, sci-fi blockbuster. I will tip my hat, though, by saying ‘The Day the Earth Stopped’ couldn’t have been much worse.
Without making much of an impact in the world of film or pop culture, it seemed for a long time that The Asylum would continue on its course of producing and distributing “mockbusters” until the end of time. No one would even consider the possibility of The Asylum releasing a film in mainstream theaters.
That is, until now.
“What changed?” you might ask. To answer that, I give you four, small, yet impactful, words.
Check out this trailer:
With the release of this trailer for ‘Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus,’ The Asylum finally did something it has been trying to do for more than a decade. It made people sit up and realize it was out there. This trailer became an Internet phenomenon, making appearances on Attack of the Show and originating from MTV.com. People were likening its release to that of ‘Snakes on a Plane,’ giving the film an instant cult status before it was even available to the public.
The film comes out today, May 26th, 2009, on DVD, so as to whether it will live up to the hype train that preceded is yet to be determined. Of course, looking at Amazon’s Sales Rank, we see that, as of the day it was released, ‘Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus’ is at #143 on the bestsellers list for movies & TV. Not exactly a ground-quaker of movement, especially when you consider something as arbitrary as “Diana Krall: Live in Rio” on Blu-Ray ranked in at #88. I guess the star power of Lorenzo Lamas and former, 90’s, pop idol Deborah (not Debbie) Gibson just doesn’t match up to 149 minutes of bossa nova.
As for the cinematic merits of ‘Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus,’ check out our review for the film right here. However, you can’t determine whether a film or, more importantly, a film studio will ever get release in a movie theater based solely on critical success.
This brings us back to the headlined question of the day. Will The Asylum ever get a film released in movie theaters? And we’re not talking one or two movie theaters scattered around LA. That, more than likely, has already occurred with some of The Asylum’s past films. What we’re talking about here is whether or not The Asylum can get a film into a chain of theaters across the United States. Will we ever see the day when ‘Transmorphers’ can actually run side-by-side with ‘Transformers’?
The quick answer is a resounding “Hell no!” The chances of The Asylum getting enough funding to financially get a film into nationwide theaters slimmer than Debbie Gibson’s music career getting a resurgence based on her acting abilities.
But, more importantly, and to a deeper point on the issue, is the idea that Hollywood studios will only put up with so much. It is amazing to think that 20th Century Fox is the only studio thus far to actually take action against The Asylum and their “mockbusters.” Fox above all other studios this year proved to the world that they will file lawsuits fast than a switchblade extending if they think there is dollar 1 to make from doing so.
If the day comes that one of these slight variations on an honest to God mainstream film actually gets release in a movie theater, all hell is going to break loose. The film studio equivalent of Bonnie & Clyde is going to come down on The Asylum. Hollywood studios will be the Texas and Louisiana law officers and The Asylum will be the bank robber couple on a desolate, Louisiana road.
Of course, it won’t even come to that. Any financial juggernaut The Asylum might ever find themselves at the helm of would have happened with ‘Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus,” and the overpowering love for that movie began and ended with the trailer. Their next film, the much compared ‘Transmorphers: Fall of Man,’ streets on June 30th, and there hasn’t been news story one about it.
So, what do you think? We leave the discussion for you to continue in our comment section. Will The Asylum ever find themselves in the position of opening a film in wide release? Are their films destined to stay in DVD players? If they were to ever find themselves in that position, would they jump on it, or would they immediately begin sweating thinking about all the lawyers that will start pounding on their office doors? Will there ever be another film like ‘Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus’ that The Asylum could, potentially, push into even the smallest venues? Let us know your thoughts on this topic below.
Whether or not they actually get into movie theaters (and, by the way, there is nothing to insinuate The Asylum even wants to move into theaters), there are countless Summer blockbusters for the company to spin off from. Video stores and Netflix will continue to be filled with “mockbusters” from The Asylum. Whether the company moves up in the world or not, the knockoffs they produce aren’t going away any time soon.