We’ve already seen a few films sold to other studios this year, most notably with Netflix acquiring The Cloverfield Paradox from Paramount, and it seems to have become a bit of a trend in Hollywood. Studios have been happy to recoup cash for films they aren’t confident about, and another film could be studio swapping: the upcoming horror movie Slender Man.
Per Variety, distribution rights for the film are on the block because the film’s producers are having heated disagreements about the release strategy with Sony Pictures, the studio that is supposed to debut the film in August.
Sony reportedly sees the movie as a low-budget, Blumhouse-style release, while the producers have more confidence in the film and are pushing for it to open wider on a lot more screens. They also want a bigger marketing push, which will cost more money that Sony seems prepared to spend.
Thus, the producers have triggered a clause in their contract that allows them to solicit higher offers. They’ve shown the film to several studios, including Netflix and Amazon, but some companies that have seen the movie in its near-complete state are skeptical about its commercial potential.
This is a rare occurrence, highlighted by the fact that Sony have already debuted a trailer for the film, as well as unveiling posters and promotional images. If another studio does indeed purchase the rights to the movie, they will likely have to pay Sony back for any expenses it incurred.
Steve Bersch, head of Sony’s Screen Gems division overseeing Slender Man is a fan of the film and wants to release it, but other figures in the studio are concerned about a potential social media backlash. The title character of the film is a boogeyman created online around 2009, and allegedly inspired two 12-year-olds to stab their friend Payton Leutner 19 times.
Leutner survived, and the girls were institutionalised. The father of one of the girls who stabbed Leutner called the film “extremely distasteful”, and there is a petition online with 19,000 signatures calling for the studio to pull the film from release. However the film itself has a fictional plot and doesn’t reference the real-life stabbing.
Nevertheless, the potential blowback has some Sony higher-ups concerned, and that is likely factoring in to some of the release strategy disagreements. If the producers cannot find another studio, Sony may move forward with its Friday, August 24 release date. The film is directed by Sylvain White and stars Joey King, Jaz Sinclair and Julia Goldani Telles.