Boo-who? Miramax takes stab at horror

Miramax Films has launched a bid to expand into the upscale horror film genre , inking a deal that paves the way for it to produce an updated version of director Robert Wise’s “The Haunting,” company co-chairman Bob Weinstein confirmed Thursday.

Miramax has reached agreement with producer Cary Brokaw and attorney Sheldon Abend to acquire all worldwide film rights to Shirley Jackson’s novel “The Haunting of Hill House.” Abend represented Jackson’s estate in negotiations.

The “Haunting of Hill House” was the basis of Wise’s 1963 horror film “The Haunting,” which starred Julie Harris and Claire Bloom. The property is about an anthropologist, a skeptic and two psychics whose weekend investigation of a notorious haunted Boston mansion turns into a terrifying struggle to get out of the house alive.

Budgeted between $ 12 million and $ 15 million, the new version of “The Haunting” will be produced by Brokaw and Lee Caplin. Weinstein said Miramax will likely sign a top writer to finish a screenplay in the next three weeks, and hopes to be in production on the movie by this summer. “The Haunting” is being shepherded at Miramax by Weinstein and West Coast director of production Jeff Kurz.

“The Haunting” deal follows on the heels of reports that Miramax is bidding to expand from distributing specialized art-house fare and lower-budgeted exploitation titles into the horror realm (Daily Variety, Jan. 6). It culminates a search by Miramax co-chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein to find a wide-audience horror property along the lines of “The Omen,””The Exorcist””Rosemary’s Baby” or “The Shining.”

“The Haunting” will be released by Miramax’s Dimension Films, which was launched last year with such lower-budgeted releases as “Hellraiser III” and “Children of the Corn II.”

Weinstein cited “The Haunting” and the $ 22 million production of “Highlander III” as examples of the types of productions Dimension will be involved in down the road. He added that “The Haunting” will likely “attract a major talent in terms of a director, and we’ll get a nice cast in it as well.”

Avenue Pictures will produce the movie in association with Caplin’s Picture Entertainment.

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