EXCLUSIVE: Producers Roy Lee, John Middleton and Lawrence Grey have partnered in Primal Pictures, a new genre arm of Vertigo Entertainment. The company will share the first look deal that Vertigo has with Warner Bros, and a big part of Primal’s mission is to put the studio into the ultra-low-budget genre game. Primal will also produce a slate of micro-budget films with independent equity financing.
Warner Bros has just given a green light to Hidden, a $10 million thriller that will begin production this summer. That film was acquired late last year, based on the 2011 Black List script by Matt and Ross Duffer, twin brothers who’ll direct the horror thriller about a family hiding in a bomb shelter after escaping a mysterious outbreak. Lee, Middleton and Grey are producing with Mason Novick. Richard Zanuck also just joined the project as producer.
Warner Bros just acquired for Primal Pictures The Cure, a script by Beau Michael Thorne about a dying woman whose husband arranges for experimental medical treatment, only to discover the cure has horrific consequences. Michael Connolly and Mad Hatter Entertainment will also produce.
This deal puts Warner Bros in line to participate in what has become a steady stream of narrative and found footage thrillers with low budgets and young audience appeal. These films routinely clean up at the box office, often earning back their budgets during opening weekend and outperforming mid-budget films with stars. Warner Bros just got into the act with the Silver Pictures/Green Hat Pictures release Project X, which grossed nearly twice its budget last weekend. Universal Pictures announced it reclaimed Ouija out of turnaround after its producers transformed it from a $100 million film to a thriller with a $5 million budget. Paramount, which has scored successes with the Paranormal Activity series and the Insurge release The Devil Inside, has a series of small budget pictures being developed by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot. Fox had a similar success with Chronicle.
Lee, Middleton and Grey have assembled several pictures that will be made under the Primal Pictures banner. They include: The Vatican, a $5 million thriller for Warner Bros being penned by Dave Cohen, with The Devil Inside helmer William Brent Bell attached to direct and Matthew Peterman and Morris Paulson also producing; Viral, a Screen Gems thriller about a vengeful spirit that terrorizes a high school student after someone uses her Facebook account to leave cruel messages on a dead classmate’s page, with Tim and Matt Shechmeister directing an expansion of their UCLA short film with Stephen Susco also producing; Rise, a Warner Bros action/sci-fi film that takes a fresh look at the war between robots and their human creators, which David Karlak (the short film The Candidate) will direct with Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunston writing the script and Underground also producing; and Tape 4, a spec by Jeremy Slater that’s a horror film that incorporates Lovecraftian mythology into a modern setting. Laurent Briet, a music video and visual effects maven, will direct, with financing coming from Sebastian Aloi, who’ll also produce through La Lune Entertainment. Company 3 will also produce.
Lee’s producing credits include the remakes The Departed, The Ring, The Strangers and The Grudge, and at Warner Bros, he’s producing LEGO and Stephen King’s The Stand, and the CBS Films’ thriller 7500 and an Old Boy remake at Mandate. Grey’s credits include Juno, Drag Me To Hell and The Hills Have Eyes, and the recently wrapped David Frankel-directed Great Hope Springs with Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell.