Saturday, June 8, 2013

Looks Like The Asylum is Winning this Round

Back when I watched The Asylum's Almighty Thor, I wrote a bit about how I'd developed an entirely new perspective on the company.  As I said then, it appeared that The Asylum knew exactly what it was doing and was having fun and making money without a damned bit of concern for what other people thought about its business model.

Now, it looks like the company famous for its "mockbusters" may have gone one better.

Last week, Will Smith's $100M+ "summer blockbuster" After Earth hit theaters on May 31.  True to its standard practice, The Asylum got its knock-off, AE: Apocalypse Earth, out on video a few days ahead of the larger film's theatrical release.

Then, a couple of very interesting things happened.  The first was that the Will/Jaden Smith film tanked at the box office.  Yes, when I say "tanked," I mean that it only grossed $27 million opening weekend...but that's the worst opening performance we've seen from a Will Smith vehicle in 20 years (and that includes Wild, Wild West).  The second is that the Richard Grieco/Adrian Paul film generated some interest.

Obviously, there's an apples-to-oranges element in this comparison, given that one of these films was a large-budget picture with a theatrical release and the other had an estimated budget of $1 million and went straight to DVD.  But the comparison is worthwhile, nonetheless.

Viewer Ratings of After Earth and AE: Apocalypse Earth

Because of the differing distribution, not every rating site has viewer ratings for both movies, so I'll start with IMDB.  AE: Apocalypse Earth currently has a 3.4 overall rating on IMDB.  Not stellar, to be sure, but After Earth isn't far ahead with a 4.6.  Considering that the After Earth budget was more than 100 times the AE: Apocalypse Earth budget, that's not much of a lead.

On Rotten Tomatoes, The Asylum's film isn't rated, but After Earth has an average rating of 3.8/10.  The fresh to rotten ratio is 17:132 and fewer than half of viewers said they liked the movie.

Since After Earth isn't yet available on DVD, it's not rated on Amazon--but AE: Apocalypse Earth has an average 3 stars out of 5.

Neither film is setting the world on fire, but to the extent that it's possible to compare, they seem to be running virtually neck and neck in viewer reaction: the primary difference seems to be that one of these films still needs to earn another $100 million to reach the break-even point.

Who's Attracting More Attention?

Obviously, After Earth is getting more and bigger press.  But, let's take a look at some trends.

As of today, Richard Grieco is the 1,585th most searched actor on IMDB--that's up from somewhere in the 6000s just ten days ago.  Adrian Paul comes in today at 1,059, and although I don't know exactly where Paul was ten days ago, I know that number was greater than 4,000.  In other words, the two lead actors in AE: Apocalypse Earth have attracted a lot of attention over the ten-day period since the film's release.

Of course, that doesn't put either in competition with Will Smith, who's sitting at # 10 today. However, Smith has made several appearances in the top ten over the past several years and has dipped outside the top 100 only briefly in the past 7 years.

On the other hand, aside from a brief flurry surrounding the release of the first 21 Jump Street movie, Grieco is higher on the list today than he's been since 2000.  Likewise, Paul hasn't come in so high since late 2001.  But the attention the two lead actors are enjoying in the wake of the AE: Apocalypse Earth release pales in comparison to the rank the movie itself is posting.

After Earth is currently the 8th most searched movie on IMDB...and the "mockbuster" version comes in at # 47.  Levin's "knock-off" is just behind the popular television series Dexter and ahead of The Avengers on the most-searched film list, and is one of only two feature films in the top 50 with a budget of less than $10 million.  The other is a Warner Brothers picture with a $9.48 million budget.

So...go Asylum!  I haven't seen the film yet because DHL seems to think that California and Kansas are between Illinois and Illinois, but I hope to soon (estimated delivery date, June 24???)  More when I've seen it. Until then, I'll revert to my recent assessment: this is a company that knows exactly what it's doing.

Update: After this post was published, AE: Apocalypse Earth director Thunder Levin contacted me to advise that the actual budget for his film was less than half of the estimated $1 million that's been widely reported.  That means After Earth's budget was actually near 250 times what Levin had to work with, making the comparisons above all the more impressive.