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‘Scooby’ scribe digs up ‘Dead’

Promise of high prod'n value seals deal

Hoping to revive the flesh-eating zombie as a film staple, Beacon Communications will remake the George Romero horror classic “Dawn of the Dead,” with “Scooby-Doo” scribe James Gunn writing the script.

The deal was made with Richard P. Rubinstein, the New Amsterdam Entertainment CEO who produced the original film and owned the rights.

Rubinstein had turned down offers to remake the film for years, but finally relented after a campaign by Beacon executive Eric Newman. Rubinstein cited Beacon’s “strong commitment to giving the remake competitive production values” as the reason he made the deal. New Amsterdam veep Mike Messina will be associate producer.

“Dawn of the Dead” was the long-awaited sequel to the seminal fright film “Night of the Living Dead.” It was somewhat campy compared to its predecessor, in that the first instinct of the reanimated corpses was to mass at a shopping mall, where the zombies turn the whole mall into a food court.

Money maker

The film was a critical and financial hit, grossing more than 10 times its cost in its first year, and playing well overseas. It becomes the second in the series to be remade, after Tom Savini revived “Night of the Living Dead.”

“Everyone involved has a tremendous amount of respect for the integrity of George Romero’s film, and we see the remake as more of an update than a reinvention,” said Beacon’s Newman, who’ll oversee the film with development director Steve Asbell.

The film’s sly social statements about the consumer culture of the time, which drove the zombies to the mall, will remain intact. “The social commentary underlying George’s original film in terms of shopping as a way of life is still very relevant,” said Rubinstein, who has also produced the horror films “Pet Sematary” and “Creepshow.”

Infusion of hipness

The studio and producer chose Gunn because of the hip take he brought to both the recently wrapped Warner Bros. comedy “Scooby-Doo” which stars Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Geller, and “Spy vs. Spy,” the comedy based on the warring Mad magazine characters that is being developed by “Austin Powers” director Jay Roach.

Gunn, who began his career writing low budget horror films, sparked to the idea of the redo. “It combines my two all-time favorite things, flesh-eating zombies and shopping,” said Gunn, who is repped by UTA and Brillstein-Grey.

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