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Hollywood scares up box    office hits

Jessica Biel stars in New Line's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" which opens this weekend.
Jessica Biel stars in New Line's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" which opens this weekend.
/ Source: CNBC

“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” splatters across more than 3000 screens this weekend. It’s just the latest example of how Hollywood is successfully scaring up business at the box office.

New Line Cinema is hoping its remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” generates the same kind of buzz among moviegoers that the original did nearly 30 years ago.

“I decided, ‘OK, let’s reinvent this for a new generation,’ ” said Michael Bay, the film’s producer. “And let’s keep it very faithful to the core audience. This is a cult classic.”

Bay is best known for directing big budget blockbusters like “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor” and “Bad Boys.” Like many other filmmakers, he sees a major resurgence in horror films.

“In the young generation, there is this need to be scared, to have that thrill,” he said. “Watching some of the test screenings, you see these couples: they kind of huddle together and they can feel something coming. And then they jump in the seat; it’s that kind of whole emotion you go through in the theater that I think some of these kids are looking for.”

If Hollywood is using scare tactics to boost the box office, it’s because it works.

More than a dozen horror films have hit theatres this year, grossing more than $350 million.

“As a genre, in 2003, horror movies have been the one consistent, very consistent genre, perhaps other than comedy, that has done well and continues to do well,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations Company — which tracks and analyzes box office film sales. “And there’s still more to come.”

Films like MGM’s “Jeepers Creepers II,” New Line’s “Freddy vs. Jason” and Sony’s “Underworld” trounced the competition on their opening weekends. Still to come are Warner Brothers’ “Gothika,” Dimenson’s “Scary Movie III” and a re-release of Fox’s “Alien.”

“We keep looking for a film to really fail in this genre,” said Dergarabedian. “And it hasn’t happened yet.”

With Halloween around the corner, expect to see plenty of classic horror films on TV and in video stores. Virtually every major studio is pulling vintage horror hits out of their vaults and re-releasing them on DVD.

“You’re seeing Universal release it’s entire library of mummy and werewolf and Dracula and Frankenstein movies on DVD on a regular basis,” said Scott Hettrick, editor of Video Business Magazine, “as well as the other studios like Warner Brothers that include Lon Chaney titles and that kind of thing.”