Magazine article Newsweek

Itching to Pick a Fright: Hollywood Studios Are No Longer Scared of Scary Films

Magazine article Newsweek

Itching to Pick a Fright: Hollywood Studios Are No Longer Scared of Scary Films

Article excerpt

Byline: John Horn

It's a scary time in show business--and not just because "Jackass: The Movie" has arrived. Hollywood's major players, which long ago ceded the horror-movie genre to the independents, are screaming back to the business. DreamWorks recently made the killer-videotape thriller "The Ring," which debuted No. 1 at the box office. Producer Joel Silver ("The Matrix") and Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump") just launched the abandoned-ocean-liner story "Ghost Ship." Even Tom Cruise found his way into fright flicks, buying rights to the corneal-transplant scare "The Eye."

Like everything Hollywood, the shift is driven by dollars--as if anyone could have ignored the $140 million "Blair Witch" bonanza. A studio spends an average of $30 million just marketing every release. But the independent companies showed that by casting unknown heartthrobs and targeting young moviegoers, they could reduce costs and develop brand names like Dimension Films ("Scream") that are as important to teens as Disney is to families. Zemeckis and Silver's new "Ghost Ship" cost a modest $23 million and is headed by a TV star, "ER's" Julianna Margulies. Warner Bros., which is releasing the film, will spend less on its combined production and marketing budget than Arnold Schwarzenegger will earn for "Terminator 3." "If these movies work," says Silver, "they work only because we don't spend that much."

Just as the independents built brand identity through horror franchises, Silver and Zemeckis are trying to create their own horror imprint. …

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