Fans feed on first fright fest

Horror marathon racks up cool $2.3 million at B.O.

When Freestyle Releasing opened its “8 Films to Die For: After Dark Horror Fest 2006” on the weekend before Thanksgiving, you would have thought they had missed some sort of Halloween deadline.

But the stunt worked: The horror pics took in $2.3 million from 488 screens, enough to land in the top 10 and beat Universal’s wide release “Let’s Go to Prison,” which bowed on 1,500.

The ploy was to roll out eight obscure, low-budget pics for one weekend only. Titles included “The Gravedancers” and “Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horrors,” as well as another pic, “The Tripper,” where a Ronald Reagan-obsessed madman torments a group of young hippies.

The event drew most of its fanbase through the Internet, although “We put $10 million to $12 million into mainstream media,” says Freestyle topper Mark Borde. “But we didn’t do a spot for each film, we just pushed the festival.”

So how do they recoup their investment?

Ultimately, the fest is a marketing vehicle for Lionsgate’s DVD release of the movies, scheduled for next year.

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