Hor­ror be­comes sum­mer’s hot ticket

Frights and hor­rors are no longer rel­e­gated to fall openings for Hal­loween,

The Tribune (SLO) - - Ticket - BY JEN YAMATO

IT’S A GOOD TIME TO BE A FAN OF HOR­ROR MOVIES – AND THIS SUM­MER, STU­DIOS ARE HOP­ING IT’S A GOOD TIME TO RE­LEASE THEM TOO.

Why so scary, sum­mer? From creepy dolls to wa­ter-borne preda­tors to more mys­te­ri­ous and mur­der­ous frights, hor­ror is head­ing to mul­ti­plexes in a big way this sea­son.

No longer rel­e­gated to the Hal­loween tim­ing of a fall open­ing – although those slots re­main golden – hor­ror has crept into sum­mer thanks to the proven prof­itabil­ity of hits like “It: Chap­ter One,” the bur­geon­ing cin­e­matic oeu­vre of Jor­dan Peele and any­thing re­motely re­lated to “The Con­jur­ing.” It’s a good time to be a fan of hor­ror movies – and this sum­mer, stu­dios are hop­ing it’s a good time to re­lease them too.

It cer­tainly wasn’t al­ways this way, even though the grand­daddy of crea­ture hor­ror – Steven Spiel­berg’s “Jaws” – ush­ered in the era of the block­buster with a June open­ing 44 years ago. And sum­mer re­mains the most costly sea­son for movie openings, says genre pro­ducer Ja­son Blum.

But when hor­ror movies score big all over the re­lease cal­en­dar, as they’ve done in re­cent years, what for­merly seemed like a risk looks in­creas­ingly en­tic­ing.

“Be­cause hor­ror movies were of­ten thought of as ‘sin­gles’ and ‘dou­bles’ it was the com­mon wis­dom that it wasn’t worth the (mar­ket­ing and distri­bu­tion costs),” says Blum, whose hits in­clude “Hal­loween,” “Get Out” and “Glass” – all of which crossed $100 mil­lion do­mes­ti­cally.

“When these movies can do over a cou­ple hun­dred mil­lion dol­lars world­wide,” he says, “the sum­mer be­comes a much more at­trac­tive place to have them land.”

While his Blum­house Pro­duc­tions has been care­ful about sum­mer re­leases, its “Purge” films have all opened suc­cess­fully in the sum­mer, the last two prov­ing com­pet­i­tive over the lu­cra­tive July 4 frame.

Still, Blum­house will launch just one the­atri­cal film this sea­son: Oc­tavia Spencer ve­hi­cle “Ma” (May 31), a hard-r thriller with gory mo­ments. (The Os­car-win­ning ac­tress stars in a sur­pris­ing turn that Blum com­pares to Kathy Bates’ in “Mis­ery.”) Its next two hor­ror re­leases are slated for Septem­ber and De­cem­ber.

“The best re­lease date for a hor­ror movie ever would be a Fri­day the 13th in Septem­ber,” Blum says, laugh­ing. “That would be the dream hor­ror movie re­lease date – you’d have to make a re­ally bad movie for it not to open on that day.”

“I talk about (re­lease date strat­egy) as three­d­i­men­sional chess,” says Warner Bros. pres­i­dent of do­mes­tic distri­bu­tion Jeff Gold­stein, who has over­seen the dat­ing of the “Con­jur­ing” fran­chise – in­clud­ing its “Annabelle” spinoffs and last year’s smash “The Nun” – as James Wan’s Atomic Mon­ster shin­gle has churned out hor­ror hit af­ter hit for the stu­dio.

The next in­stall­ment – se­quel “Annabelle Comes Home” (June 28) – moves even closer into the heart of the sum­mer. The creepy doll mini-fran­chise ini­tially launched in Oc­to­ber, be­fore an Au­gust date did ro­bust busi­ness for the se­cond “Annabelle” film. (The orig­i­nal “Con­jur­ing” and its se­quel be­came global block­busters when they were re­leased in July and June.)

“If you make a good movie, you put in some scares and it re­ally works for that tar­geted au­di­ence, they’re faith­ful and they come back,” Gold­stein says, “and they come back early.”

Un­like other gen­res, hor­ror is in­her­ently con­ducive to the shared the­atri­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, he notes. And while genre au­di­ences to­day tend to skew young and fe­male, those gaps are evening out.

“There are cer­tain Rrated movies that re­ally cross over and get a younger au­di­ence, like ‘It,’” he says. “’It seemed to defy the rat­ing be­cause par­ents thought that was a movie they could ex­pe­ri­ence to­gether with their kids.”

Lead­ing the wave of killer doll movies is Orion/mgm’s “Child’s Play” re­boot (June 21), which gives Chucky a face-lift, a new back story, a new Andy to ter­ror­ize and a new voice (Mark Hamill). It went into pro­duc­tion less than a year ago to make its June re­lease date.

“I don’t think there’s a bad time to open a hor­ror movie any­more,” says “Child’s Play” pro­ducer Seth Gra­hame-smith, who

with part­ner David Katzen­berg is also a pro­ducer on “It”). “I feel like hor­ror is now a year-round genre.”

In a cheeky re­lease date stunt, “Child’s Play” will hit theaters the same day as an­other fran­chise that started with a kid named Andy and the toy he no longer plays with: Disney/ Pixar’s “Toy Story 4.”

“It’s one of the fun­ni­est things I’ve ever seen in a re­lease strat­egy and I love it,” says Gra­hame-smith. “We’re em­brac­ing it! Ob­vi­ously ‘Toy Story 4’ will make a lot more money than we will on the week­end, but we will be, I think, a great al­ter­na­tive.”

Earn­ing its R rat­ing with sub­stan­tial gore, Sony Screen Gems’ “Bright­burn” (May 24) kicks off the sum­mer of scares with a hy­brid twist on the su­per­hero genre pro­duced by James Gunn.

El­iz­a­beth Banks and David Den­man play Tori and Kyle Breyer, lov­ing par­ents who dis­cover the young boy they adopted when his space­ship crash­landed on their farm is de­vel­op­ing su­per­pow­ers. The bad news: He’s prob­a­bly a so­ciopath, a dark turn that should at­tract fans of both su­per­hero movies and hor­ror to its evil Su­per­man ori­gin story.

Ad­di­tional scream­wor­thy ti­tles set to hit screens over the next four months in­clude “Crawl” (July 12), with Kaya Scode­lario as a woman stalked by al­li­ga­tors dur­ing a Cat­e­gory 5 hur­ri­cane, and the se­quels “Brahms: The Boy II” (July 26) and “47 Me­ters Down: Uncaged” (Aug. 16).

Be­fore the sea­son truly ends with the Septem­ber re­lease of hor­ror se­quel “It: Chap­ter 2,” an­other spook-story clas­sic makes it to the big screen with the help of pro­ducer Guillermo del Toro: “Scary Sto­ries to Tell in the Dark” (Aug. 9), adapted from Alvin Schwartz’s col­lec­tion of short sto­ries that gave gen­er­a­tions of kids ab­so­lute night­mares.

Open­ing an “in­tense” PG-13 hor­ror flick in a frame po­si­tioned to at­tract out-of-school kids and grownups who still have a strong emo­tional con­nec­tion to the books makes sense, says pro­ducer Sean Daniel: Sum­mer “is where the au­di­ence is. Hor­ror is so pop­u­lar – it’s re­ally one of the great rea­sons to gather in a movie the­ater. What bet­ter time than sum­mer for do­ing that?”

ERIC MIL­NER Orion

Chucky, left and Gabriel Bate­man ap­pear in a scene from the hor­ror film “Child’s Play.”

Sony Pic­tures/tns

El­iz­a­beth Banks stars in “Bright­burn,” which kicks off a sum­mer of scares with a hy­brid twist on the su­per­hero genre.

WARNER BROS. PIC­TURES AP

Annabelle the doll re­turns to the big screen in the hor­ror film “Annabelle Comes Home.”

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