Lion’s Gate Cashes In

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We’re in a little horror boom right now, as you’ve probably noticed if you’ve been to the comic shop or the theater in the last year or two. And good thing.

But whenever there’s a boom in any market, horror or otherwise, previously uninvolved companies will move in to try to capitalize. It’s only smart business. And I can’t hold it against them. But sometimes companies can do more than just exploit a trend – they can improve it, spread it, mature it.

Unfortunately, Lion’s Gate Films is not doing any of these things in the current horror market.

If you’ve seen many horror trailers recently, you’ve no doubt noticed the black and bright green LGF logo at the front of lots of movies and teasers.

Lion’s Gate, with just a glance it at its list of horror titles, looks like a one-studio horror renaissance:

are all being distributed to theaters by Lion’s Gate. And while it’s great to see horror in the theaters, it would be better to see good horror. Now, I’ve not seen all these films, and some aren’t out yet, but I’ve seen trailers for all of them, and I’m not encouraged.

Alone in the Dark is based on a video game. There’s a solid rule that comes into play here: there are no good movies based on video games. The trailer makes it clear that this movie isn’t going to break that rule (horror movies with that much firepower in them, that many machine guns and all, just aren’t ever good).

Cube Zero was OK, but no great shakes (watch for the March issue of Rue Morgue for my review of it).

The Devil’s Rejects looks to be more warmed-over rehashes of horror movies that Rob Zombie saw in the 1970s, just like House of 1,000 Corpses was.

High Tension could be good, and has gotten good advance word, but it fails my mute trailer rule, which gives me pause.

Ju-On could be the only great one of the bunch, as I loved the American remake, The Grudge, but I have yet to see the original.

Saw was constructed on a repulsive moral foundation and just wasn’t that smart or that good.

Open Water was interesting, if ultimately unsatisfying.

So, Lion’s Gate has something of a negative track record in my book with these movies.

Of course, the box office tells a different story:

 BudgetU.S. Gross
Alone in the Dark$20,000,000N/A
Cube ZeroCa$1,200,000N/A
The Devil’s RejectsN/AN/A
High Tension$2.2M EurosN/A
Open Water$130,000$30,500,882

Since Lion’s Gate is only distributing these movies, not producing them, this doesn’t speak at all to their profit, though any movie that makes good money is bound to make its distributor happy.

Still, Lion’s Gate has been able to get great distribution for a slate of, at best, mediocre horror movies, when it also distributed the wonderful May and saw that movie bring in less than $150,000 in total box office gross.

I guess maybe this isn’t Lion’s Gate’s fault. Despite all the pronouncements from economists and conservatives, the market is not always the arbiter of quality, just the arbiter of the middling. There are thousands of similar examples. Lion’s Gate is just going where the money is. Which is, after all, their job.

It’s the old sales don’t equal quality lament, really. Nothing new here.

Still, it would be great if we rewarded companies when they take chances on movies like May and not give them so much encouragement when it comes to the next Saw or Alone in the Dark.

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