A summer date is typically the kiss of death for a horror film, but that’s usually because either a studio executive didn’t know what they were doing, or they just wanted to dump it between the release of a Batman or Transformers franchise. The problem is, summer typically isn’t the time people want to see a genre film. Moviegoers speak with their wallets, and it has been proven time and time again that it doesn’t always work (it should be noted that films like The Others and The Sixth Sense were major hits).
This all leads to the release of James Wan’s The Conjuring, which Warner Bros. Pictures will bow in theaters July 19. Wan has become a master of horror having to major hits, Saw and Insidious, as well as the ever-so-creepy Dead Silence. A new article on Variety indicates that the great summer challenge is a result of the film’s strength. Says the site, the film “will bow during the heart of summer, a result of scary-good test screening results.”
It’s astronomically rare for a studio to even acknowledge that test screenings have taken place since the general public and online goons (that’s me!) treat that as a sign of weakness. They’re celebrating their results, flaunting them right in front of our faces. What does this mean? It means that Warners wants everyone to know that they’re the gustiest studio in the biz, one that’s taking a huge chance on Wan’s Amityville Horror-inspired horror starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Mackenzie Foy, Joey King, Hayley McFarland and Shanley Caswell.
According to the mag, Conjuring has been generating virtually unheard of glowing responses from two test screenings. The move to July — a huge vote of confidence for The Conjuring — was made in direct response to those screenings: The film scored in the low-90% range when averaging the number of auds who rated the film either “excellent” or “very good.” Concerning men under 25, the pic scored even higher, just below 100%.
For context, it’s very rare for a film to receive those sort of scores; it’s even rarer for horror films.
“I said to Toby Emmerich, ‘Let’s take a chance,’” said Warner distribution chief Dan Fellman. “Horror movies tend to get bunched together and then drop off quickly, but they don’t have to.”
Warner first tested The Conjuring mid-summer, which prompted helmer James Wan to make some minor tweaks. Pic screened again roughly three weeks ago and received similarly glowing ratings — if not a tad better.
Horror films lately have been monopolizing first quarter release pipelines, as well as late-August and early fall. One of the last horror pics to go wide in June or July was Fox’s The Omen remake in 2006.
Wan expressed his gratitude in receiving such strong support from Warners.
“New Line and Warner Bros. have been so supportive,” Wan said. “It’s a testament to their support that they’re willing to take a chance and open it next summer right in the heart of big films.”
Based on a true story, The Conjuring revolves around ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren and their investigation of a young family and their five kids who move into a New England farmhouse where they’re haunted by spirits, including an evil witch.
Wan introduced the film’s footage during the New York Comic-Con panel held at the IGN-branded theater at the Javits Center. Panel also included thesps Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston. Vera Farmiga, also in the film, was not on hand.
“This one plays scarier because it’s more grounded,” said Wan, while comparing The Conjuring to Insidious. “I tried to ground it as much as possible because the realism makes it creepier.”
During a Q&A session, a father told Wan that his teenage daughter turned to him while a scene played and said, “I can’t handle this, I can’t handle this,” adding, “You’ve got one helluva hit on your hands.”
How excited are you guys?