- Associated Press - Sunday, August 14, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Moviegoers may want to take two bites of the same apple next year: A pair of live-action adventure flicks based on Snow White will come out in theaters just months apart.

As it stands, the first, still-unnamed Snow White movie is scheduled for release March 16. That gives moviegoers two and a half months before “Snow White and the Huntsman” on June 1.

Executives are confident that both projects can succeed, given their differences in stars, tone and plot.

However bizarre the coincidence is, history shows that two similar projects like these can both attract large audiences.

In May 1998, viewers turned out for “Deep Impact,” a movie about a comet threatening Earth. They showed up again that July when an asteroid did the same in “Armageddon.” “Deep Impact” sold $349 million in tickets worldwide, and “Armageddon” followed with $555 million.

Audiences didn’t duck for cover either when “Dante’s Peak” blew in February 1997 only to have “Volcano” erupt that April. The first made $169 million and the other $120 million at the box office.

The latest standoff pits a couple of “frenemy” studios against each other _ newbie studio Relativity Media and its longtime distribution partner, Universal Pictures.

Since 2005, Relativity had provided financial backing for most of Universal’s new movies in a deal that was to last through 2015. But Relativity has been eager to make money from distributing as well, as it did with the March 8 release of “Limitless,” which has sold more than $150 million in tickets worldwide.

So in June, Relativity passed its co-financing deal with Universal to Relativity’s financial backer, Elliott Management. That paved the way for the two studios to compete head to head _ Relativity with the unnamed movie and Universal with “Huntsman.”

“Everybody kind of goes into this eyes wide open,” said Tucker Tooley, Relativity’s president of worldwide production. “It’s the nature of competition. It’s the nature of this business.”

Universal executives declined to comment.

Executives argue that the two Snow White movies are spaced far enough apart so that advertising one won’t inadvertently drive people to the other.

Most movies make 95 percent of their sales in the first four weeks. On average, people in North America see four movies a year. There’s plenty of time to get refreshed and go out again.

“Ten weeks in the movie business is a lifetime,” said “Huntsman” producer Joe Roth.

He should know. Roth was head of Disney’s studios when its “Armageddon” opened second but still sold $200 million more in tickets worldwide than “Deep Impact.”

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