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The term B-movie originally referred to a film designed to be distributed as the "lower half" of a double feature, often a genre film featuring cowboys, gangsters or vampires.

The term now generally refers to a low-budget movie with lesser-known (and generally considered lesser-talented) actors (B-actors). Usually the films are formulaic and campy, with cheap special effects, uninspired dialogue, and gratuitous nudity, sexuality, and/or violence. B-movies of the horror movie genre are especially popular. B-movies today are not usually even released in theaters, instead going direct-to-video. They spawned a type of late night television show commonly called "Midnight Madness," where they are shown back-to-back until the early hours of the morning.

The popular television series Mystery Science Theater 3000 used B-movies in its episodes. In the series, Joel Robinson (and later Mike Nelson) would watch a B-movie along with their robot pals Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo - which were puppets, and provide a running commentary throughout the movie - which would consist of them riffing the entire movie. The characters would appear as silhouettes at the lower right hand corner of the screen. The audience would watch them and the movie.

David A. Prior is a prominent figure in the B-movie industry, and Ed Wood has been credited by some as a master of the genre. Roger Corman specializes in producing and/or directing the kind of films which typify the genre.

Currently, certain production companies such as Troma specialize in producing large quantities of low quality B movies. One of the classic producers of these films was the US company American International Pictures (AIP), founded in 1954 by James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff. Its films include works by Roger Corman, Vincent Price, and the early efforts of lesser figures such as Francis Ford Coppola, Jennifer Aniston, Robert De Niro, and Jack Nicholson. In the 1980s, such houses as Cannon Films, New Line Cinema, Golan-Globus, and many others leapt up to create a new generation of B-movies; most of these houses died away as film budgets soared in the early 1990s and even a comparatively low-budget, low-quality picture would cost millions of dollars.

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Last updated: 08-16-2005 06:44:11