THRILLERS AND HORROR MAKE LOTS OF MONEY
"The track record of horror films tells you maybe Hollywood should just release horror movies
to be successful. I can't think of a more consistently performing genre at the box office,"
saiys Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
TRADE PAPER EXCERPTS AND ARTICLES
The Hollywood Reporter:
HOSTEL Takes In $20.1 Million In Opening Weekend
Horror fans checked into Lionsgate's Hostel in surprisingly large numbers this weekend, as the R-rated horror film from writer-director Eli Roth rang up an estimated $20.1 million to capture first place at the boxoffice.
Hollywood Reporter : 'Hostel' beats big boys in surprising bow atop b.o..
Lionsgate's low-budget horror film "Hostel" rang in the new year with a surprisingly strong debut of $20.1 million. The R-rated frightfest was written and directed by Eli Roth and co-produced with Screen Gems
Weekend Box Office (January 20 - 22, 2006)
Hostel $42,674,185 three week cumulative for Lions Gate
SAWProducers Reap Millions
Gregg Hoffman and his partners at Twisted Pictures financed the low-budget films "Saw" (2004) and "Saw II" (2005) and will reap millions of dollars from their success. The first film cost $1 million to make and grossed more than $102 million in DVD and boxoffice revenue; the sequel cost $4 million and made $86 million at the boxoffice in 6 weeks.
"We've won the lottery," Hoffman, a former Walt Disney Co. executive, told the Los Angeles Times in November.
Hoffman joined Oren Koules and Mark Burg at their company, Evolution Entertainment, in 2003. In the summer of 2003, the three partners assembled financing for "Saw" and started Twisted Pictures to make more low-budget horror movies. The "Saw" films' success led to multi-picture development deals with Lions Gate and Dimension Films including "Saw III" and "Crawlspace".
SAW entered theaters with a campaign that effectively suggested a graphic thrill ride. The film opened in England three weeks ago where its been a box office dynamo with $9 million in the bank already.
Lions Gate Films' and Twisted Pictures' SAW II Cuts Through North American Box Office to Open At #1
With Estimated Three-Day Weekend Gross Of $30.5 Million
Sunday, October 30, 2005 SANTA MONICA, Calif., and VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Oct. 30, 2005 -- SAW II slashed its way to the top of the North American box office and shattered several Lions Gate box office records this weekend as Lions Gate Films' and Twisted Pictures' SAW II grossed an estimated $30.5 million, it was announced today by Lions Gate Films Releasing President Tom Ortenberg.
There was blood on the Lions Gate record books as the second installment in the Company's SAW franchise scored the highest-grossing opening weekend in Lions Gate's history, shattering the previous record of $23.9 million set by last year's blockbuster documentary FAHRENHEIT 9/11. SAW II also achieved the biggest-grossing single day in Lions Gate history with its estimated Friday opening day box office of $12.2 million. Film also was one of highest-grossing horror sequels of all time.
Lions Gate and Twisted Pictures noted that SAW II's estimated opening weekend outperformed the opening weekend of last year's original SAW by more than $12 million, or approximately 70%, underscoring the tremendous moviegoing base that the franchise has already built. Original SAW grossed $55.2 million domestic B.O. & then sold more than 4 million units, as one of highest-grossing DVDs in Lions Gate's history.
Lions Gate International President Nick Meyer, released the film in the two largest international territories in the world, the United Kingdom and Japan. It opened with an estimated weekend box office of $3.8 million in the UK , Lions Gate's biggest UK opening ever, and opened with a strong estimated two-day gross of $750,000 in Japan. Upcoming releases are slated for Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and other international markets.
"Mark Burg, Oren Koules, Gregg Hoffman and the entire SAW creative team have clearly delivered their most horrifying, twisted and psychologically intense film yet, and we are all thrilled with the record-breaking results," said Ortenberg. "SAW II's opening weekend demonstrates that powerful product ..... attests to the strength and enduring value of the SAW franchise for Lions Gate. With superb exit polls, we expect SAW II to continue on its way to becoming one of Lions Gate's highest-grossing films ever." Lions Gate also noted that SAW II's powerful opening weekend kicks off a strong slate of upcoming Lions Gate releases that includes the riveting horror thriller HOSTEL (recently added to the slate for December 21), Trailers for HOSTEL have been piggybacked to SAW II's release.
"Saw II" grossed $36 million in its first four days and has outpaced the original's international opening grosses in the U.K. and Japan. Twisted Pictures, the genre production unit of Evolution Entertainment has had a lucrative run with the "Saw" films. Burg and Koules financed the original for $1.2 million then watched it gross $102 million worldwide. They and Hoffman financed the $4 million sequel, on pace to outgross the first film. Twisted owns both titles.
THRILLERS AND HORROR MAKE LOTS OF MONEY
Credit horror's respectability to Anthony Hopkins, who won an Oscar for his depiction of Chianti-loving Hannibal Lecter in 1991's "The Silence of the Lambs," the year's Oscar winner for best picture. The film, a hit both critically and commercially, made horror not only palatable but downright delicious. "Silence legitimized horror," says David Skal, author of "The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror." "Hopkins showed that a major international star could do something so over-the-top and lurid and win an Oscar for it. Nothing succeeds in Hollywood like success, and horror movies make a lot of money, even when they're B- and C-pictures." For the most part, experts say, horror flicks are cheap to make, but they are very profitable both in theaters and on DVD.
They appeal to those desirable young viewers. And they can help lesser stars raise their profiles. Case in point is the 2003 version of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," which starred Jessica Biel of TV's "7th Heaven" and grossed $80.1 million.
"The Ring," is the American version of a Japanese movie, about a creepy girl who appears in a deadly video. The 2002 movie, which grossed $129 million, transformed Aussie newcomer Naomi Watts from critical darling to a household name and box-office draw. "The Ring" bridged the gap between solid actresses and horror movies." Naomi made a reasonably smart movie and opened the door for more of this stuff."
People go to the movies for an emotional experience, and horror films deal with primal emotions and issues of morality."Horror is all about primal fear, sure, but not exactly prestige, says Martin Kaplan, former Disney studio executive, now associate dean of Annenberg School for Communication at USC.
Though traditional slasher films such as "Halloween" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" make money, they don't garner their stars any Oscar nominations. "While Alfred Hitchcock proved that horror could be artistic, by and large, horror pictures have been popcorn-programming cash cows. "And, having classy actresses in them makes these films have buzz.
EVEN BADLY REVIEWED HORROR/THRILLERS MAKE MONEY
NUMBERS Box Office: $21,607,203 3 days
GENRE Horror/Suspense, Thriller, Stalkers
THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers rushed to theaters for the new suspense thriller When a Stranger Calls powering
the film to a strong number one opening over Super Bowl weekend. Sony enjoyed its best opening since September with the release of the babysitter chiller When a Stranger Calls which rocketed to number one with $21.6M. The
PG-13 flick is about a teenage girl terrorized by a mysterious caller. As anticipated, young females were the core audience as the studio's Screen Gems unit targeted the demographic that typically is least distracted by the Super Bowl. According to studio research, 55% of the audience was female and 58% was under the age of 21. The usual horror formula of a female protagonist, a PG-13 rating, and good marketing led to another impressive opening for the distributor in this genre. A $15M production budget should allow all hands in the pot to make aprofit.
When a Stranger Calls also marked the third consecutive year that Sony's Screen Gems unit debuted a film at number one on Super Bowl weekend. Last year, it bowed Boogeyman to $19M while in 2004 the company
premiered You Got Served to $16.1M. With Stranger, the 2006 box office generated a $20M+ opener for the third
straight weekend following Big Momma's House 2 and Underworld: Evolution which each debuted near $27M mark.
THREE DAY BOX OFFICE/RENTAL HISTORY FOR "WHEN A STRANGER CALLS" Total: $21,607,203
"An open letter to the filmmakers of the worst movie I've ever seen in my life..."-- Mike Ward, RICHMOND.COM
"A minimum effort horror movie. It does just enough to scare easily unnerved thirteen-year-old girls, and
not much else." -- Joshua Tyler, CINEMABLEND.COM
"The bare-bones story simply can't survive being stretched to eature-length running time."
-- Eric D. Snider, ERICDSNIDER.COM
"In a just world, teenagers will see the garbage that Screen Gems is trying to shovel down their throats with Stranger, and ignore it like they would a concerned parent. " -- Brian Orndorf, EFILMCRITIC.COM
"This thing is a movie like static is a song." -- Scott Weinberg, EFILMCRITIC.COM
"some of the cast is so bad it made me wonder if they won some sort of internet contest, or were the fifth caller on a radio station to get their roles" -- Willie Waffle, WAFFLEMOVIES.COM
"An excruciating bore, a hopeless hodgepodge of the hoariest imaginable horror movie cliches...When this
'Stranger' calls, just hang up." -- Frank Swietek, ONE GUY'S OPINION
"'Dial M for Moronic'... the call is still coming from inside the house -- and the stench is coming from
inside the theater." -- James Sanford, KALAMAZOO GAZETTE
WHEN A STRANGER CALLS has grossed nearly $200 million, theatrical, television and DVD combined.
LA Times Business Section
The studio enters the horror-thriller direct to DVD arena with three small films on the grislyside.
Warner Home Video and a trio of established TV and film creators are targeting sci-fi and horror fans
with three gruesome new movies — tto bypass movie theaters and go straight to DVD.
Very loosely inspired by the 1960s TV series "The Twilight Zone," the scary movie slate — released under
the banner Raw Feed — will be put together by men with proven track records for inducing fright.
Daniel Myrick, the director of the 1999 indie thriller "The Blair Witch Project," Tony Krantz, a producer on the Fox TV show "24," and John Shiban, a TV writer who has penned episodes of the WB series "Supernatural"
and "The X-Files," will direct a film apiece, each shot in L.A. for less than $5 million.
Krantz and his partners will work on each others' films and share crews and a common goal: a modernized homage to Rod Serling "but with a different energy: raw, edgy, realistic."
With the fast-growing popularity of DVDs, it's becoming worth Warner Bros. while. to enter this market.
Last year, consumers spent >$22.8 billion< buying and renting DVDs, up about 8% from the prior year,
according to Digital Entertainment Group, a trade association. Of that, purchased DVDs accounted for 71%
of the money spent — or $16.3 billion. By comparison, domestic ticket sales in movie theaters in 2005
totaled $8.99 billion.
"You can really launch a new product on DVD without having the benefit of a theatrical release," said Jeff
Baker, a Warner Home Video vice president.
Raw Feed is confident that direct-to-DVD distribution may be the next frontier for filmmakers eager to get their cinematic visions in front of an audience - casting new faces, with stories they'll be telling as fresh as those of big-budget movies. The first Raw Feed release: "Rest Stop," is about a young couple terrorized during a cross-country road trip. "The DVD market has evolved into its own art form," said Graham Taylor, the agent who put together the Raw Feed deal. "Filmmakers are interested in getting their stories made.
After "Rest Stop" is in the can, Raw Feed has more gore on deck. "Sublime" will be about an outpatient
who goes to the hospital for minor surgery only to discover his legs have been severed. In "Cult," a man
visits the religious community his brother joined and learns he has arrived on the day everyone plans to
NEWSWEEK Horror Show
Scary movies are multiplying faster than ever, and getting increasingly sadistic. Why are audiences so
hungry for blood? Pull up a chair. Just be careful which one.
Once the credits roll and the theater empties, movie marketers go to the bathroom to eavesdrop. "That's where you
hear the good s--t," says Tim Palen, co-president of marketing for Lions Gate Films. Four years ago, after
a test screening of a nasty little horror movie called "Cabin Fever," Palen was lingering in the men's room
when he heard two pals dissecting the film. "I liked it," one said. "I just wish it was bloodier." Palen made a mental note: gore is good. He played up the carnage in his ad campaign, and "Cabin Fever," about a flesh-eating virus that chews through a group of friends, earned 15 times its budget and put first-time director Eli Roth on the map. When Roth finished his next film, about a pair of sex-starved American backpackers in Europe who wind up in a torture
chamber, Palen didn't blink. "Hostel," starring no one you've heard of and featuring some of the most brutal
violence in any mainstream film, debuted atop the box office in January and made nearly $50 million. A sequel is planned for early 2007. "We're now a big believer in blood," says Palen. In a risk-averse town like Hollywood, the high church of horror has become the one sure bet. Since last fall, seven horror movies have topped the box office.
Lions Gate's "Saw" franchise, the genre's current kingpin, has rung up $250 million worldwide; a third film is planned for Halloween. Three more creepfests are scheduled for the next month, starting with Universal's "Slither" this Friday. Even Disney has gotten into the act with the PG-13 flick "Stay Alive," which, alas, is not about the systematic slaughter of disco fans.
Every decade or so, horror gets hot in Hollywood. This latest shockwave, though, is larger—and much more
grotesque. You could sew together a whole new person from all the severed body parts in the "Saw" movies,
"Hostel" and Fox Searchlight's remake of Wes Craven's "The Hills Have Eyes." It's not jokey violence,
either. "Filmmakers now have the ability to put viewers directly into the shoes of the victims going through these horrible things, in an almost documentary way," says Bob Weinstein, whose "Scream" franchise for Dimension Films launched the last horror fad in 1996.
Such films tend to look smarter with the passage of time. It's practically a cliché that you can tease out
a generation's subconscious fears just by watching its horror movies. Craven, the man who created Freddy
Krueger, says horror movies are "boot camp for the young psyche." (Sixty-five percent of the audience for
"Hostel" was younger than 25, which is par for the genre.) "I don't think it's an accident that it's always average kids who come to these movies," Craven says. "They're wondering, 'Just how violent is this adult world?' " Asked if he's got any theories aboutwhy sadism is in vogue, he laughs and says, "Because we're living in a horror show. The post-9/11 period, all politics aside, has been extremely difficult for the average American. We all know what's floating
around out there. That's big stuff, and it comes out in a million ways, from people drinking a bit more to kids going to hard-core movies."
Maybe it's pure coincidence that "Hostel" became a hit after two years of headlines about Abu Ghraib and the
rise of anti-Americanism in Europe. But here's the tip-off that the director, at least, knew exactly what
he was doing: his two protagonists are jackasses of a specifically American, "what happens in Bratislava
stays in Bratislava" variety. You'd want five minutes alone in a room with these knuckleheads, too. Craven's
"The Hills Have Eyes" in 1977 was about atom-bomb testing in the Southwest; if you didn't know that the
remake (directed by a Frenchman, natch) was a broader critique of U.S. aggression, the moment when the hero
jams an American flag through a mutant's neck really spells it out.
Right now, no one has better fingertips for this material than the people at Lions Gate. The studio just won the top Oscar for "Crash," but its executives make no apologies for the bloodier side of their business. "Have I no shame? Is that what you're asking?" says president Tom Ortenberg. "When we see a void in the market, we do our best to fill it. And we didn't feel that there were enough, or really any, R-rated, balls-to-the-wall horror films out there."
Without the yoke of a parent company, Lions Gate is free to unleash its inner provocateur, whether that means putting a pair of severed fingers on its "Saw 2" poster—which even Berney, a competitor, calls "a classic"—or playing up the fact that people passed out during previews of "Hostel." "I feel bad that some people had such an extreme reaction," says Palen, "but as a marketer, it was an opportunity to alert people who relish that kind of movie that we've got one for them."
If horror films have taught us anything, though, it's this: you can kill them, but they never stay dead.
Internet using peer-to-peer technology developed by BitTorrent Inc., the home of a popular tool for trading pirated copies of movies.
The companies did not specify a date but said the service will be offered starting this summer. Pricing
is also undetermined, although individual TV shows could be priced as low as $1 and movies will be sold
for about the price of buying a DVD, BitTorrent said. Warner Bros., a division of Time Warner Inc., said it
will use BitTorrent's ability to speed the downloading of large computer files to rent and sell its films the
same day the movies become available on DVD. The studio also will sell permanent copies of films and TV shows online that can be burned to a backup DVD, although the copy will only play on the computer used to download the film and not on standard DVD players. The deal is aimed at converting some of the file-sharing users who regularly seek illegal copies of films and TV shows by offering them a reliable experience at a reasonable price on the same system used by online pirates.
Studios believe that offering reasonably priced legal alternatives will be preferable to downloading files
that could contain viruses or poor quality copies of films. "Those are the kinds of baby steps to offer
users a good trade off, a good alternative to doing things the wrong way," said Ashwin Navin, president
and co-founder of Bit Torrent.