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Inside Move: M’max’s ‘Scary’ beats Rhino

Of horror-parody rivals, one wins gold while other eats dust

With domestic box office of more than $140 million, Dimension Films’ “Scary Movie” now stands as the most successful release in Miramax history. But some say the scariest movie would be the one that shows the lengths to which Miramax has gone to beat Rhino Entertainment’s rival horror parody, “I Know What You Screamed Last Semester,” to the marketplace.

For Rhino’s “I Know,” the first frightening portents came not long after it beat “Scary” into production in the spring of 1999. Dimension tried to acquire the Rhino spoof, which was helmed by John Blanchard and stars Tom Arnold, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen and Coolio. Rhino rejected the offer when Dimension refused to commit to a theatrical release for the film.

Then, just before Christmas, Lions Gate picked up worldwide rights to the Rhino title. The looming presence of “Scary” didn’t spur Lions Gate into rushing its pic into theaters ahead of the Miramax juggernaut. In fact, Lions Gate didn’t announce the deal until this past March, with plans for a summer release that put “I Know” squarely in the “Scary” path.

When the summer dust settled, “I Know” had taken a powder and “Scary” had made Miramax history.

Lions Gate currently has a time frame for theatrical release of its pic — fall 2000 — but still no date set. As for foreign sales, Lions Gate is quietly laying off all overseas rights to Miramax. Look for “Scary’s” global domination to continue unfettered.

“I Know’s” theatrical woes aren’t Rhino’s only horror headaches.

Miramax, whose territoriality over the “Scream” franchise extended to suing Columbia Pics in 1997 over its ad campaign for “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” threatened Rhino with legal action over the use of the word “Screamed” in the film’s title.

Rhino held firm, but at great expense: The backers of the film’s insurance upped the “I Know” policy from $10,000 to a half million.

Still, Miramax probably won’t rest until Lions Gate gets rid of the offending verb. Lions Gate is still suggesting title changes to the Rhino team, such as “Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th.”

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