If auds’ disdain for torture porn had briefly scared off Hollywood from scary movies, that’s no longer the case.
With Halloween just around the corner, studios are working overtime to put the fear back into moviegoers — even outside the megaplexes.
“Saw” has become an annual October franchise for Lionsgate, with a fifth pic set to unspool Oct. 24. And the franchise, which has earned $556 million at worldwide since 2004, finally has its own official haunted house.
Planted in an old movie theater in Brea, Calif., the “Saw” attraction features 12 rooms that re-create the grisly traps and scenarios of the first four films.
Lionsgate approved the designs for the house, built over three months by franchise fan Jeff Schiefelbein, and provided visuals and promo support.
“Keeping the integrity of the brand is extremely important to us,” says Aubrey McClure, VP of promotions and licensing for Lionsgate, which had spent the past three years promoting the franchise at other haunted houses through T-shirt and poster giveaways. “At the end of the day, ‘Saw’ is a horror film. We didn’t want it to come off as silly or kitschy.”
With 20,000 people expected to visit the venue, the “Saw” house was seen as a prime opportunity to push the next pic installment.
“Anything we can do to keep the ‘Saw’ name in the public eye is a benefit to the franchise,” says Twisted Pictures’ Mark Burg, a producer of the “Saw” pics. “It’s really good. It’s freakin’ scary as hell.”
Praise from the producers, as well as fans, has Lionsgate already considering expanding the size of the attraction next year, timed around “Saw 6.”
Studio is also expanding the life of the franchise year-round, with a rollercoaster to be built at Thorpe Park in the U.K., which attracts mainly 18- to 34-year-olds rather than families. A vidgame is also forthcoming from Brash Entertainment.
“This will be living as a year-round brand and not Halloween-specific,” McClure says.
Other studios have also gotten in on the haunted house circuit to push their pics, with Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights promoting “The Strangers” and “The Wolf Man” and Screen Gems’ creation of an official “Quarantine” maze at Knott’s Berry Farm.
Marketing execs say the “Quarantine” attraction’s debut before the pic’s bow could only have benefited the film.
“People didn’t know what ‘Quarantine’ was, but having the maze made the movie an event,” says one exec.