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While all the big-budget animated, fantasy and sci-fi flicks continue to eat up the nation’s limited number of 3-D screens to boffo box-office business, what about the scrappy independents and others making 3-D movies outside the studio system? Will the little guys ever capture a bit of the current theatrical windfall?
With all the legitimate 3-D epics like AVATAR and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and the “fake 3-D” ALICE IN WONDERLAND and CLASH OF THE TITANS (the latter two were converted in post, and not shot with 3-D cameras) out there, it’s next to impossible for smaller films to not only garner a multidimensional release but even find a distributor in the first place. Two cases in point: Joe Dante’s well-reviewed theatrical comeback movie THE HOLE (pictured above) and the gruesome slasher flick SCAR (pictured below).
SCAR was lensed in 2006 and first screened for potential distributors in May 2007, well before production of 2009’s 3-D remake of MY BLOODY VALENTINE. Why couldn’t the Angela Bettis-starring SCAR jump on the 3-D gravy train? Producer Norman Twain shares his frustration that he could have been the first new R-rated horror film out in 3-D if he had opened in time. “For horror fans, SCAR is a very well-made and entertaining film,” Twain tells Fango. “The 3-D does enhance it and makes it more audience-friendly. Is it the best movie ever made? Of course not. But it is certainly competent, and audiences do like it.”
At least, audiences overseas do. “SCAR did exceptionally good business in Europe, with the best grosses from Russia, Poland and Romania,” Twain says. “It fared well in Greece, Hong Kong and in the Benelux area, but was disappointing in England and France. As the producer, I could say it wasn’t marketed well in either of those two releases. We live and learn. There is an upcoming release in Spain in May on about 400 screens. We anticipate good numbers. All in all, SCAR has been sold in 40 countries, and nobody could be disappointed in its foreign numbers. It still has openings coming up in Germany, the Czech Republic and Japan.”
But why has no U.S. company stepped up to the plate? According to Twain, “The reason it never got released in America is threefold: First, it was a little ahead of the curve, and at the time it should have been released, there was, for that temporary window, the feeling that horror-torture was out. HOSTEL: PART II had just opened and did not fare too well. The suits were not looking for horror. Then, concurrently, a lot of the distributors who would have been candidates to take it on all went out of business, leaving only Lionsgate and possibly the Weinsteins as options. Neither wanted to spend the necessary prints-and-advertising money to release it. Unfortunately, it fell between the cracks, and I doubt it will ever receive major American distribution. Our plans are to promote a huge U.S. premiere on VOD the first week in October.”
Dante’s THE HOLE, which began production in late 2008 and screened at the Sitges, AFI and Toronto film festivals last fall, has also stumbled in nailing an American distributor. The movie, about a trio of kids who encounter their worst nightmares when the titular pit is opened in the basement of a suburban home, is an entertaining throwback to lighter ’80s horror and sci-fi movies. Dante uses his 3-D tools to create an immersive environment without the usual gimmicks. Despite positive reviews and good audience feedback, no major or minor distributor has locked up the Vancouver-lensed film yet.
The GREMLINS director, however, feels confident that THE HOLE will make it into multiplexes. “We’re targeting the end of summer/early fall for a release date and are in discussions with several distributors,” says Dante, whose BEST OF TRAILERS FROM HELL: VOLUME ONE DVD compilation was previously covered here).
Nonetheless, other indie filmmakers have a number of economical 3-D productions waiting in the wings. At the November American Film Market, producer/director Brian Yuzna (the RE-ANIMATOR films, FROM BEYOND, DAGON, etc.) debuted clips from his 3-D creature feature AMPHIBIOUS, starring BAD MOON’s Michael Paré, and has several others on the drawing boards. Just don’t expect them to be playing in the same venues that have hosted the likes of AVATAR.
“We are very enthusiastic about AMPHIBIOUS 3D, for which I am currently working in Brussels on the visual effects,” says Yuzna, who shot his jungle-set monster movie in Indonesia. “And I am in Italy working on [the script for] a project starring Corbin Bernsen. But we will probably shoot that in LA. We want to do it cheap, but in 3-D, and still haven’t gotten all the financing in place.” (Hey, we’d pay to see a new DENTIST flick in 3-D, reuniting Yuzna and Bernsen!)
Perhaps with this winter’s launch of 3-D home entertainment systems, and cable stations adding a couple of 3-D channels to their roster, a new demand for product will provide the independent 3-D horror films a home—comin’ right at us in our own living rooms.
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