“Slender Man” is being quietly shopped around Hollywood, Variety has learned.
Distribution rights for the upcoming horror movie are on the block because the film’s producers are having heated disagreements about the release strategy with Sony Pictures, the studio that is supposed to debut the film in August. Sony sees the film as a low-budget, Blumhouse-style release, according to two insiders, while the producers, a group that includes William Sherak and James Vanderbilt, have more confidence in the movie. The are pushing for the picture to unspool across more screens and also want a bigger marketing push, which will cost more money than Sony is willing to spend.
The producers have triggered a clause in their contract that allows them to solicit higher offers. They’ve shown the film to several studios including Netflix and Amazon, but some companies that have seen the nearly completed picture are skeptical about its commercial potential.
It is extremely rare for a film to be shopped to other studios so close to its scheduled release. Sony has already debuted a trailer for the film, and unveiled posters, and promotional images. Presumably whoever buys the film would have to pay the studio back for any expenses it incurred.
Sony’s Steve Bersch, the head of the Screen Gems division overseeing “Slender Man,” is a fan of the picture and wants to release it, according to another insider, but the studio’s brass is concerned about social media backlash. The title character, a viral boogeyman created in 2009 as part of an online contest, allegedly inspired two 12-year-olds to stab their friend Payton Leutner 19 times. Leutner survived, and the girls were institutionalized.
Bill Weier, the father of one of the two girls who stabbed Leutner, has criticized the film as “extremely distasteful” and has said it is “popularizing a tragedy.” Some movie theaters close to where the stabbing took place in Wisconsin have said they will not show the film. An online petition calling on the studio to pull the film from release has attracted more than 19,000 signatures.
There are concerns at Sony that the blowback will intensify as the release date approaches even though “Slender Man’s” plot is fictional and doesn’t reference the real-life stabbing. That may be factoring into some of the release strategy disagreements, insiders say.
If the producers cannot find another studio, Sony may move forward with its Aug. 24 release date. “Slender Man” is directed by Sylvain White and stars Joey King, Jaz Sinclair, and Julia Goldani Telles.