Ever since Marvel Comics' movie arm introduced the concept of a "shared universe" to the movie world — and Marvel's chief competitor DC Comics began struggling to mount its own "universe" on screen — the concept that numerous films involving different characters are storylines should actually connect with each other as if they took place in the same fictional setting has become de rigueur in genre moviemaking.
The "shared universe" concept has been central to superhero comic books for decades, but only with the recent series of Marvel-based films has Hollywood embraced the idea of tying together multiple, otherwise seemingly unrelated movies with an over-arching story arc.
With Marvel a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros owning DC, Universal Studios announced its own "shared universe" film series last July — consisting of characters from the studio's classic monster flicks of the 1930s and '40s, such as Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf-Man, and so on.
Now comes the latest entry into the "shared universe" derby to compete for space on multiplex screens — and for online downloading bandwidth. This time, the low-budget studio American International Pictures, known for such drive-in movie cult classics as I Was A Teenage Werewolf, High School Hellcats, and It Conquered The World, plans to reboot no fewer than 10 of its 1950s-era exploitation films in an epic series with a single story arc and overlapping characters tying the "universe" together.
The new movie universe is produced by the Los Angeles-based Cinedigm company, together with Lou Arkoff, son of original AIP boss Samuel Z. Arkoff, and screenwriter Jeff Katz who, according to a report in the entertainment industry trade publication Variety, has already penned all 10 films in the series.
"Each movie in this series has a complete beginning, middle and end, yet watched over all 10 films we're really telling one larger, epic story," Katz told Variety. "These are very much, at heart, indie comic book movies. Unpretentious. R-Rated."
So which 10 movies will be part of the AIP Universe? The enticing list of titles includes Girls in Prison, Viking Women and The Sea Serpent, The Brain Eaters, She-Creature, Teenage Caveman, Reform School Girl, The Undead, War of the Colossal Beast, The Cool and the Crazy, and The Day the World Ended.
"In a unique twist on the current filmmaking model, all 10 films will shoot back-to-back and share a single movie universe with a big recurring cast of antiheroes, monsters, and bad girls," Arkoff said in a press release. "This format will allow our casts and directors to build a strong relationship with the characters — and our audience — over the course of several films."
The new AIP shared universe series of films is scheduled to begin production in September. Casting and director assignments have yet to be announced.