News broke late yesterday that the long-awaited new Friday the 13th film had been pulled from its October 13th release by its distributor, Paramount. Just as fans of the series were processing this news, word then spread that Paramount had pulled the plug on the production, indefinitely.
The overwhelming response from Friday the 13th fans doesn't seem to be one of disbelief or disappointment, but rather anger and relief. The new Friday the 13th had been in production for years and had gone through many incarnations along the way, most of which drew the ire of fans. At one point producers were interested in taking the film in the direction of "found footage", with Jason's deeds chronicled firsthand, and first person, via a video camera jammed into his eye socket by a victim. Shooting the film in 3D was also considered. Then producer Brad Fuller announced that the new film would explore Jason's backstory and offer a supernatural explanation for why he cannot die.
Fans were displeased, to say the least. Many felt that the producers behind the new Friday the 13th were overthinking it. The production languished.
Then, last year, Fuller announced that Prisoners screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski was writing the script. Early reports stated that the plot would revolve around a young Jason and his relationship with his mother. Many fans drew parallells between this proposed plot and the popular television series Bate's Motel. Soon thereafter a director was announced. In this case, those duties went to 2010's The Crazies director, Breck Eisner.
Earlier this year, principal photography was announced to begin in March, with a scheduled release date of Friday, October 13th. Casting calls went out for actors to portray young Jason and Jason's father. The new Friday the 13th seemed on the fast-track.
So what happened? Early reports are pointing the finger at the disappointing box office for Paramount's Rings. Rings opened in second place at the box office, taking in a reported 13 million dollars, with a reported 25 million dollar budget. According to many websites, the lukewarm box office for Rings gave Paramount execs cold feet and caused them to pull the plug on Friday the 13th.
When I first heard this speculation, I called BS. How could Paramount base the success or failure of their upcoming Friday the 13th on the box office returns of Rings? These are two very different films from two very different series. Friday the 13th has over 40 years of (mostly) successful movies under it's belt, and is one of (if not the) most well-known and revered horror movie franchise. The Rings series has only three films and, of those, only the The Ring, released in 2002, was a hit.
According to my source, which I cannot name, but is close to the production of the new Friday the 13th, the disappointment of Rings is only one of the reasons why Paramount execs ultimately decided to axe the film.
Keep in mind the last Friday the 13th film was released in 2009. That's nearly 8 years ago now. The last Ring film, The Ring Two, was released in 2005. That's nearly 12 years ago. Paramount believes that a big part of Rings' failure is due to too much time having passed between entries. They think people just simply forgot about the series. Apply that same logic to the new Friday the 13th and Paramount is projecting similar box office returns. Strike one.
I'm sure we all know how Paramount came to be the home of Friday the 13th once again, so I won't go into detail regarding the rights swap Warner Brothers worked out with Paramount some years ago, in which Paramount was given the opportunity to release as many Friday the 13th films as they wanted within a set number of years. Well, that clock is rapidly winding down. As a matter of fact, Paramount's rights to the franchise expire at the end of 2017. According to my source, Paramount execs felt like this wasn't a long enough timetable to see the production through and properly promote the film prior to its scheduled October 13th release date. Strike two.
I'm also sure that most of you are aware of the pending litigation between Manny Company, a successor to Georgetown Productions, and Horror, Inc. and original Friday the 13th screenwriter, Victor Miller, over controlling rights to the property. Initial speculation was that the litigation would not be a roadblock for the production of the new film. That speculation, according to my source, is not entirely true. Victor Miller is asking for creative control of everything Friday the 13th. Even though there hasn't been a new Friday the 13th film since 2009, licensing of merchandise with the name "Friday the 13th" or bearing the likeness of Jason Voorhees is worth millions.
According to my source, these kinds of suits happen regularly and 99% of them are settled out of court. However, and with so much money on the line, this lawsuit could go for an indeterminate length of time, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the production and release of a new Friday the 13th film, but more importantly its product licensing. Strike three.
So now that Friday the 13th 2017 has been laid to rest, what does this mean for the future of the franchise? In 2018, rights to Friday the 13th will go back to Warner Brothers. We can only hope Warner Brother's execs will put a film into development soon thereafter and see it through in a far more timely and thorough manner than Paramount and Platinum Dunes. Of course, we all see how well the Warner brass has handled the DC movie universe. Low blow?
Maybe this series truly is cursed. Maybe we should just let Friday the 13th die. Most fans I've spoke to seem almost relieved that the new Friday the 13th is now dead, and, honestly, I don't blame them. I'd rather have no new Friday the 13th than a bad Friday the 13th.
I'm sure we'll know more about the death of Friday the 13th 2017 in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for follow-ups as they become available. Sound off in the comments section below with your thoughts on the demise of Friday the 13th 2017 and the future of the series.