Xerox cinema is the tendency of studios to develop and release strikingly similar projects at the same time, a phenomenon that allows us the rare opportunity to pit films in head-to-head competition. Here are some more notable recent Xerox cinema battles:
The Illusionist vs. The Prestige (2006 puzzle pieces about 19th-century magicians)
Public’s choice: The Prestige ($53 million to $40 million domestic box office)
Critics’ choice: The Prestige in a squeaker (75 percent to 74 percent approval on Rotten Tomatoes)
Cinema Scoped’s choice: The Prestige. In my opinion, this match is an embarrassing rout in the Dr. Strangelove/Fail-Safe or Mike Tyson/Michael Spinks mold.
Winner: The Prestige
The Black Dahlia vs. Hollywoodland (2006 mysteries about real-life murders in old Hollywood)
Public’s choice: The Black Dahlia ($22 million to $14 million)
Critics’ choice: Hollywoodland (69 percent to 32 percent)
Cinema Scoped’s choice: I’m not a fan of either film, but I’ll give a slight edge to the more coherent Hollywoodland.
Garden State vs. Elizabethtown (seriocomic indies about suicidal dopes and the manic pixie dream girls who love them)
Public’s choice: Garden State (their domestic box-office hauls were almost identical, but Cameron Crowe’s dismal Elizabethtown cost almost 20 times as much to produce)
Critics’ choice: Garden State (86 percent to 28 percent)
Cinema Scoped’s choice: 86 percent approval is a ridiculous number for something as mediocre as Garden State, but Elizabethtown really is one of the worst things ever.
Winner: Garden State
Deep Impact vs. Armageddon (1998 asteroid disaster movies)
Public’s choice: Armageddon, the highest-grossing film of 1998
Critics’ choice: Deep Impact (47 percent to 41 percent)
Cinema Scoped’s choice: This is a brutally tough call, but unlike Deep Impact, Armageddon is at least insipid in bold and memorable ways.
Winner: Armageddon … but aren’t we all losers here?