Ghost story scares up auds

Sequel on 'Board' for boffo B.O.

JAKARTA — The war in Iraq and the deadly SARS virus, which has hit at least 10 Indonesians, has not deterred cinemagoers from flocking to horror pic “Tusuk Jelangkung” (Pierce the Quija Board).

The sequel to 2001 hit “Jelangkung” drew more than 180,000 people in its opening week (March 28-April 3) on 20 screens in Jakarta and Bandung in West Java.

That’s an extraordinary total in a market where local and imported films often struggle to attract 100,000 filmgoers in their entire run. A further 40,000 tickets were sold April 4-6, mostly to an audience of high-school and university students.

The war coverage and fears of the pneumonia-like SARS have caused a drop of about 10% in overall ticket sales, affecting mostly late night shows.

Pic cost $267,000, a big increase over the original’s tiny $30,000 budget. The sequel was helmed by first-time director Dimas Djayadiningrat, who cut his teeth making videos.

The story by Djayadiningrat and exec producer Erwin Arnada centers on seven people who are harassed by ghosts after one attempts to communicate with the dead. The pic has been singled out for its musical score and production design.

“Jelangkung” wound up selling a whopping 1.5 million tickets. “I’m confident ‘Tusuk’ will be seen by at least one million people,” Arnada says. “The film is still to be shown in 58 theaters. Chances are that its entire run will take four months.”

Jose Purnomo and Rizal Mantovani, who helmed the first pic, are skedded to direct U.S. pic “The Well,” produced by “Armageddon” helmer Michael Bay.

Bay’s Platinum Dunes will produce, along with Roy Lee and Doug Davison’s Vertigo Entertainment. Platinum Dunes has a first-look deal with Radar Pictures, which will fund the $10 million pic and arrange worldwide distribution.

Purnomo conceived the story about Yank backpackers on holiday in Bali, but the project is out to U.S. writers to ensure it has the best shot at connecting with U.S. and international auds.

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