“The real advantage of the Internet,” says horror director Eli Roth, “is that word of mouth becomes instantaneous. It’s a definite advantage. Right now a smaller movie can very easily overtake a big movie.”
One of the better examples of this can be found in Roth’s first film, the $2.5 million indie horror pic “Cabin Fever.”
It grossed $22 million in the theaters and $70 million on DVD.
The secret of its B.O. success?
“That happened primarily because of IMDB (the Internet Movie Database),” says Roth. “I put up all these trivia facts about ‘Cabin Fever’ and started emailing horror fan sites, and they started hyping the film. My audience might be 10 people in every town in America, but the Internet let me reach all of them.”
Of all the horror sites Roth emailed, none made as much of a difference as Harry Knowles’ AintItCoolNews.com. It was Knowles who told Roth the story that later blossomed into his latest offering, “Hostel.”
Knowles’ relationship with Roth and ongoing involvement with “Hostel” led to a near-constant stream of Internet updates and salacious sneak preview photos.
Then, with a very limited budget, Lionsgate did a lot to turn its sneak-preview screenings into mini-nightmares straight from the movie.
“Horror audiences are smart audiences, and this was a smart film,” says Lionsgate marketing honcho Tim Palen. “People really treated its release like an event”
“Hostel” opened at No. 1, taking in $19.6 million.