Creatures still make features as 'Dinocroc' is intro'd

Roger Corman, who produced his first film, “Monster From the Ocean Floor,” in 1954, is celebrating his 50th anniversary as a producer by unleashing a new sea monster at the AFM.

“Dinocroc,” about a genetically altered crocodile that terrorizes a small town, has been bought by the Sci Fi Channel and sold to nearly 20 international territories. Some distribs have already signed on for “Dinocroc 2.”

“Dinocroc” is Corman’s latest spin on a genre that’s generated steady profits for his production and distribution outfit, New Concorde Intl. Most New Concorde titles are released straight to video, but Corman distributed “Carnosaur” to theaters in 1993 — a month before “Jurassic Park” — and later squeezed three sequels out of it.

Corman says that when he saw an L.A. Times article about the discovery of a prehistoric crocodile, “I thought, We’re back in business.”

“Dinocroc” is not just one of the most popular titles at the American Film Market. For weary marketgoers, “Dinocroc” is the AFM. The ubiquitous one-sheet, which shows a giant rubber lizard leaping from beneath the waves to devour a hapless water-skier, is the essence of the fest: a campy, no-budget thrill ride designed to make its money back in foreign sales and on DVD.

The $2 million negative cost is actually steep for New Concorde, which has traditionally kept most of its budgets well below seven figures. But Frank Moreno, who worked with Corman in the 1970s, recently rejoined the company as vice chairman and is exploring the prospect of producing bigger-budget pics — $2 million-$2.5 million.

The company also is earning revenue from studio remakes. Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner’s C/W Pictures acquired rights to redo “Death Race 2000″ and Corman is talking to producer Neil Moritz about an update of “Grand Theft Auto” — not the vidgame, but the 1977 racing romp that marked Ron Howard’s directorial debut.

Corman was one of the first Hollywood producers to hire Howard, James Cameron and Martin Scorsese, and he’s still interested in breaking young filmmakers. New Concorde financed NYU grad Brian Clyde’s feature about black amateur boxing, “Rage and Discipline.” Variety called the pic, budgeted at around $100,000, a “remarkably assured first feature.”

New Concorde’s library has swollen to some 350 titles. Another production that’s generating interest at AFM is “The Keeper of Time,” a sword-and-sorcery saga whose one-sheet is printed in what appears to be exactly the same font as that of “The Lord of the Ring.”

You might call this spry, 78 year-old B-movie king an opportunist, but he clearly knows what the audience wants.

“The subconscious drives of the audience haven’t changed since Greeks were putting on plays at the base of the Acropolis,” Corman says. “The posters around ancient Athens might even have been similar to the movie posters today. ‘See Achilles! See the Trojan Horse!’ “

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