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Soby, Irvine buy ‘Carnival’ rights

The original negative and a handful of surviving prints and outtakes from the 1961 cult classic “Carnival of Souls” have been purchased from the filmmakers, along with all rights, by Peter Soby and Matthew Irvine of Chicago West Entertainment.

Written by John Clifford and directed by the late Herk Harvey with a $30,000 budget, “Carnival of Souls” starred Candace Hilligoss as a young woman caught up in a supernatural experience. The solo feature effort from Harvey and Clifford, based in Lawrence, Kan., has been cited by horror helmer George Romero as the inspiration for his “Night of the Living Dead.”

“I’ve always been a fan of the film,” said Soby, who with Lisa Harrison previously obtained sequel rights and set up the “Carnival of Souls” sequel project currently in the works at Trimark Films.

Shot entirely in the Midwest, the black-and-white pic was released in 1961 on the regional drive-in circuit but was lost to all but latenight TV auds for 25 years after its original distribber went out of business, leaving pic rights entangled in lawsuits. It received a brief re-release in 1989.

Soby said he hopes to ink theatrical and video distrib deals in time for the pic’s 35th anni in October. Attorney Eric J. Feig negotiated the deal on behalf of Soby and Irvine, while attorneyAdra Burks brokered the deal for Clifford, who owned the rights after Harvey died last April. Terms of the cash purchase were not disclosed.

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