‘Saw’ gives edge to Twisted Pictures

Unique methods give film unit an advantage

Twisted Pictures is twisted indeed.

Imagine a film franchise that cost just under $25 million to produce, but has made almost $500 million at the worldwide box office.

That’s exactly what Twisted toppers Mark Burg and Oren Koules have done with the four “Saw” films.

Over the weekend, “Saw IV” debuted at $32.1 million domestically, easily winning the weekend and scoring the biggest opening of the fall. Pic made another $12.2 million overseas as it rolled out in its first wave of territories.

Koules and Burg aren’t ordinary producers. They own the franchise outright, while Lionsgate markets and distributes the films.

Usually, producers beseech studios to spend more coin on marketing. The opposite is the case with Burg and Koules, who beg Lionsgate to be as thrifty and crafty as possible.

“What producer do you know that does that? But as far as we’re concerned, a dollar spent is a dollar we don’t get back,” Burg said.

While studios throw pricey junkets, Burg and Koules look for more economical means. Koules loves to boast about a media salon Twisted and Lionsgate arranged earlier this year that cost only $5,000. That’s viral marketing for sure.

When it comes to budgets, “Saw IV” and “Saw III” each cost about $10 million to produce. “Saw II” cost about $4 million, while the original “Saw” cost less than $1 million.

The “Saw” franchise is the most lucrative horror franchise going, and the strong opening of “Saw IV” helps lay to rest concerns that horror is on the wane.

Still, Burg and Koules aren’t complacent, and continue to believe that there are too many horror titles, diluting the strength of the genre.

Hence, they’re diversifying — into horror musicals.

Twisted Pictures is in production with Paris Hilton starrer “Repo! The Genetic Opera!” There were plenty of snickers when Hilton was cast, but then again, there were plenty of people who were predicting the death of hardcore horror before “Saw IV” debuted, coming in just behind the $33.7 million opening of “Saw III.”