Studios race to tell ‘Horror’ story

M'max subsid joins Lion in revisiting Amityville

Dimension Films just rode a winning horse called “Scary Movie 3” that left a Revolution Studios rival in the dust and paid off with a $48.1 million opening weekend.

Now, the studio is entering a stakes race against MGM to be first with a film based on the events that informed 1979 horror hit “The Amityville Horror.”

One week after MGM pacted for an “Amityville Horror” remake with Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes, Dimension acquired the life rights of George Lutz, who lived in the famed Long Island haunt and experienced the paranormal happenings attributed to the murder of an entire family that previously lived in the house.

Dimension bought the rights from Nu Image and got a completed first script draft that revisits the house 25 years after the Lutz family fled. The studio is already talking with an unnamed but well established horror director who’ll shoot a film to be released by early next summer.

Dimension co-chairman Bob Weinstein and co-presidents Brad Weston and Andrew Rona were thinking about a third “Scary Movie” horror spoof when Revolution Studios swiped away original architects Marlon, Shawn and Keenen Ivory Wayans with a two-picture deal. When it became clear the first effort would be a spoof of sci-fi/horror fare like “Signs,” Dimension replaced them with “Airplane” architect David Zucker. After that, the race proved anticlimactic. While a Revolution spokeswoman said the Wayans spoof is still being developed, the siblings are instead shooting “White Chicks,” the second film in their Revolution deal.

Horror horse race

“The race is on,” Weinstein said in confirming his plans for the Amityville tale. “We don’t anticipate a lawsuit, because the story and the events surrounding the house are public domain. MGM owns the remake, and we will not touch that story; Amityville as an entity and a real story is another matter. We’ve come up with our own take on the story, and I’m sure that their remake can be a success. I know one thing: We’re very good at coming out first.”

Weinstein’s main concern wasn’t beating MGM to theaters but rather getting the movie out before summer blockbusters like sequels to “Spider-Man” and “Blade.” Weinstein said they’ll rework the script draft that came in a deal with Nu Image, whose Avi Lerner, Trevor Short and John Thompson brokered the deal with Dimension legal affairs execs Andrew Gumpert and Michael Marshall. Project was brought to Nu Image by Randall Emmett and George Furla.

It remains to be seen whether Dimension, MGM and Platinum Dunes decide to scare up a deal to make a single film with the original film title. If there is room for two epics on Alexander the Great, will it be possible to haunt the same Amityville-based house two times in one year?

There was no immediate comment from MGM or Platinum Dunes, the company that made a splashy debut with the gory “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” That film grossed three times its $9.5 million cost in its opening weekend but was knocked from the top spot on the box office charts by “Scary Movie 3.”