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The slick business behind 'Sharknado(es)'

The movie industry is suffering from a poor year at the box office, but one production company is doing better than ever.

The Asylum is an L.A.-based film company that made cinematic gems like "The Terminators", "Titanic II" and "Transmorphers."  If these titles sound familiar, that’s because they were inspired by actual blockbuster hits. These "mockbusters," as they're called, were made to ride the coattails of their namesakes.

Co-founder David Michael Latt is now the head of production. He says bigger movie studios use their strategy all the time.

“They just call it 'drafting'. It’s like having 'Volcano' and 'Dante’s Peak' at the same time. When you find out somebody’s making a film about transforming robots, basically, the appetite out there... is that people want more about transforming robots. So we’re gonna go create a film that kind of takes advantage of the awareness.”

Since The Asylum’s launch in 1997, it has made over 200 movies and none of them have lost money. Their most recent film is "Sharknado 2: The Second One", which was seen by almost four million people – the largest audience the SyFy channel has ever had.

Latt says his company is lucky to have lasted this long in the business.

“We don’t have outside investors. We are a cash flow company. The reason why we make so many movies is because we need to keep this dog and pony show up and running because the film we make today is the film that’s gonna fund the film five months from now.”

If The Asylum's success continues, Latt says he’d be happy to field offers from bigger studio interested in buying them out. For now, he's having plenty of fun.

Listen to one of The Asylum's partners Paul Bales read a letter from some less than friendly "fan" mail and offer his response...

...and listen to the full conversation in the audio player above.


Film by Preditorial.

Music: [include the linked Attribution 3.0]

"The Descent" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

"Say Yeah" Topher Mohr and Alex Elena
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 

"Wah Game Loop" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

"Rollin at 5" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

"Mandeville" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

"Monkeys Spinning Monkeys" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

"Feelin Good" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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