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Very scary prospect

Showtime nabs helmers for horror anthology

Spurred by the recent string of box-office horror hits, Showtime has nabbed rights to “Masters of Horror,” a series of 13 hourlong films to be helmed and/or written by the genre’s top names.

IDT Entertainment’s New Arc unit, Industry Entertainment and Nice Guy Prods. are producing “Masters,” the idea for which sprung from a bimonthly dinner attended by several of the participating directors. Project was formally announced during fall’s AFM and shopped earlier this year to pay cablers Showtime and HBO (Daily Variety, Jan. 18).

Dario Argento, John Carpenter, Larry Cohen, Roger Corman, Don Coscarelli, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Stuart Gordon, John Landis, Tobe Hooper and George Romero are slated to direct installments.

Garris, Industry’s Andrew Deane and Keith Addis will exec produce the anthology, which will begin production next month in Vancouver.

Citing the recent scary movie craze at the box office, Showtime entertainment topper Robert Greenblatt said the timing of the deal could not be more appropriate. Exec was part of the crowd that rushed out to see such movies as “Saw,” the update of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “28 Days Later.”

“Seeing how those played certainly factored into the decision to bring it here,” he said.

Showtime will shell out more money than some of the B-movie auteurs are used to getting, according to Greenblatt. He says the budget per film will be comparable to the per-episode cost of a first-season scripted drama –typically $1 million-$2 million.

“It’s gonna be classy, if that’s not an oxymoron,” Greenblatt quipped. Cabler is targeting a Halloween bow but has not yet locked down a premiere date.

Paybox already has a history of doing well with the genre — cabler was home to the long-running “Roger Corman Presents” film series — and related sci-fi programming including “Stargate SG-1.”

As for the individual films, helmers will produce new projects and adaptations as well as retellings of classics. Among them are “Deer Woman,” which Landis co-wrote with his son Max; “Jenifer,” to be directed by Argento based on the comicbook by Bruce Jones and Bernie Wrightson and adapted by and starring Steven Weber; “Incident on and off a Mountain Road,” adapted and directed by Coscarelli and Stephen Romano from Joe Lansdale’s short story; and “Chocolate,” which Garris will direct based on his own short story.

“These are the stories the directors have always wanted to tell, but until now, the right venue had not existed,” Industry’s Deane said. “Showtime is the perfect partner given the filmmakers’ belief that, in order to deliver something truly terrifying, they need as much creative freedom as possible and for their films to be free of commercial interruption.”

A homevideo/DVD deal is already in place via IDT’s Anchor Bay and a release is expected as soon as the fourth quarter. IDT Entertainment Sales will provide worldwide distribution.

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