In Redbox kiosks around the country, up to six knockoff movies are stocked alongside recent Hollywood blockbusters like "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows." All are tied to movies currently in theaters and will disappear before their higher-quality inspirations come out on DVD later this year.
Though the knockoffs' DVD covers look nearly identical to the movie they're drafting, story lines can be wildly different. The Asylum, which makes several mockbusters a year, gives its filmmakers complete freedom — so long as they stick to a budget typically well under $2 million.
"I tell them they can shoot in L.A. with a crew of 30, or go anywhere in the world with a crew of five, and if one camera breaks down, you're screwed," partner David Latt said.
The commercial fate of drafting opportunities is often tied to the performance of the movies that inspired them. The box-office failure of"Happy Feet Two"spelled trouble for "Tappy Toes," for instance, as did "Battleship" for "American Warships."
But whereas the expensive versions cost their studios tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, even the least successful knockoffs usually manage to turn a profit.
"The business is as healthy as ever," boasted Rimawi, who claimed that his firm had never lost money on one of its mockbusters.
That's why the Asylum is sending a small crew to Cambodia to shoot what could be the hottest drafting opportunity title of the holiday season: "Age of the Hobbits." If all goes well, the disc will be stocked in Redbox kiosks before director Peter Jackson's"The Hobbit" hits theaters in December.