Why Getting There First Doesn't Matter
"Snow White" shouldn't sweat it: Last in theaters with the same story often prevails at the box office.
Much has been made in the media about whether the Kristen Stewart-Chris Hemsworth action fantasy Snow White and the Huntsman, which Universal releases June 1, would be hurt at the box office by Mirror Mirror, the Julia Roberts-Lily Collins adaptation of the same fable that Relativity Media opened nine weeks earlier to $159.6 million in worldwide grosses. A look at history shows that movies released in close proximity to similar rivals often outperform their predecessor -- sometimes by a wide margin. As a telling example, observers point to the 1998 showdown between upstart animation studios DreamWorks (Antz) and Pixar (A Bug's Life) over nearly identical-themed insect movies. Despite DreamWorks chief Jeffrey Katzenberg fast-tracking his version into theaters 7-1/2 weeks before Pixar's follow-up to Toy Story, Bug's Life's $358 million worldwide gross more than doubled Antz's global haul. In the case of Snow White, Universal's $170 million-budgeted tentpole has an additional advantage over Relativity's $100 million version: The studio owns the right to use the character name in its title. "Universal believes audiences will recognize the vast difference in theme [Snow White is a dark adventure, and Mirror is a light fantasy]," says distribution president Nikki Rocco, "particularly given we are the rights-holder of the title."