Dark Castle pacts for direct-to-DVD films

Joel Silver’s Dark Castle Entertainment genre label has inked a multiyear pact with Warner Premiere to produce two or three films a year directly for DVD, beginning with sequel “Return to House on Haunted Hill.”

Dark Castle — backed by private equity and part of Silver Pictures — also will produce original digital content for the Internet and wireless platforms that will be used to complement direct-to-DVD releases or to tell standalone stories that further the Dark Castle brand.

Warner Bros. launched Warner Premiere last year to make a play in the increasingly competitive direct-to-DVD and digital arenas.

Dark Castle won’t produce just horror titles for Warner Premiere but other genre pics as well, including actioners and thrillers. Projects could encompass prequels, sequels and original titles that fit the Dark Castle brand.

And Dark Castle and Warner Premiere are sweetening the pot for consumers able to play high-def DVD formats, introducing “navigational cinema” technology that will allow viewers to interact with the storyline. Warners backs both Blu-ray and HD DVD.

The high-def version of “Return to House on Haunted Hill,” set to bow in October under the Dark Castle Home Entertainment banner, will include seven viewer choices leading to over 90 iterations of the storyline, according to Warner Premiere prexy Diane Nelson.

“No one knows how to develop, produce or market to this audience better than Joel,” Nelson said.

From Silver’s perspective, pact gives Dark Castle the opportunity to expand its brand, work with newer directors and tell stories in a way that can’t be done in a theatrical release.

“We are continually looking for fresh and edgy ideas for our films and for our fans to experience,” Silver said.

The direct-to-DVD market has grown by 30% in the last five years.

Other film projects in development under the pact include supernatural thriller “Widow Whisps”; psychological suspense tale “Odds,” exec produced by JC Spink and Chris Bender; and “Cheerleaders in Trouble,” an homage to 1980s slasher pics.

Dark Castle, launched last fall, is backed by more than $240 million in equity. Coin will be used to finance at least 15 movies over six years budgeted between $15 million and $40 million, with Warners distributing the entire slate.

Theatrical films already released under the label include “The Reaping.” Upcoming films include “Whiteout” and “RocknRolla.”

between $15 million and $40 million, with Warners distributing the entire slate.

Theatrical films already released under the label include “The Reaping.” Upcoming films include “Whiteout” and “RocknRolla.”

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