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‘Corpses’ lives at Lions Gate

Zombie pic passed over at U, MGM

Undeterred by its gore factor, Lions Gate Films has picked up distribution rights to writer-director Rob Zombie’s controversial horror pic “House of 1000 Corpses.”

Film, which was originally housed at Universal, so horrified studio’s execs that the rock star had to buy it back. Lions Gate will release it in the first quarter of 2003.

Pic was originally slated for release in summer 2001, but Universal Pictures chair Stacey Snider viewed a rough cut and, though calling pic an accomplishment for Zombie, said that the pic’s “visceral tone and intensity that we did not imagine from the printed page” put it at odds with U’s releasing strategy (Daily Variety, March 8, 2001).

MGM was at one time in line to pick up title after cuts, removing some of the blood and murder, had given the previously unrated pic an R rating.

Zombie let slip that negotiations were under way with MGM while interviewing Ben Affleck for MTV’s “Movie House” show and made some joking comments about the film. A few days later, MGM backed away from the deal.

In “Corpses,” two young couples are stranded when their car breaks down near a town full of bizarre characters, including a freak show family led by murderous matriarch Karen Black. William Haig, Bill Moseley and Chris Hardwick co-star.

Zombie, who previously directed musicvideos for his songs and other heavy metal acts, wrote and directed the $7 million film and recorded music for the soundtrack.

His band, White Zombie, first hit big in 1992; he disbanded it after the success of his first solo album in 1998. He has composed songs for several features, including “Mission: Impossible II,” “End of Days” and “The Crow: City of Angels.”

Zombie was recruited by Mike Judge to animate the hallucinatory sequence in 1996 feature “Beavis & Butt-head Do America.”

‘Unrelenting’

“With ‘House of 1000 Corpses,’ Rob Zombie has created an in-your-face, unrelenting horror film experience,” said Tom Ortenberg, president of Lions Gate Films Releasing. “We are really looking forward to working with Rob and having a lot of fun with this campaign.”

Added Andy Gould of the Firm, who repped rights to the pic: “Whether it be ‘American Psycho,’ ‘Dogma’ or ‘O,’ Lions Gate has proven time and again that they are not afraid to take on risky, subversive projects and that they are masters at marketing and distributing provocative, challenging material.”

Lions Gate purchased both the R and unrated versions. Domestic theatrical release will be rated R. Unrated version will go out for homevideo/DVD. Internationally, both versions will be released theatrically.

Deal was brokered by Ortenberg, Lions Gate prexy of home entertainment acquisitions and new media Peter Block and VP of acquisitions Jason Constantine, with Gould, attorneys David Fox and Jeffrey Light, Rick Yorn of the Firm and Jordan Schur of Geffen Records with Zombie.