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Sunday February 17th 2019

The Reel World – KEH-keh-keh-keh MAH-mah-mah-mah

May 2011 will have the first Friday the 13th of the year. Though that may not mean much in the real world, here in the Reel World it’s all about Jason Voorhees and the havoc that ensues after this 11-year-old boy drowns in Crystal Lake. The original movie, which was created to be a cash-cow because of the success of Halloween, has spawned 11 additional movies, a television show, novels, comic books, and millions of dollars in merchandise. Friday the 13th is reported to be one of the most successful media franchises in America – although it wasn’t a hit among the critics.

In the very beginning, even before the first script was written, producer and director Sean S. Cunningham wanted a film that was “a real scary movie” that would still allow the audience to laugh. As Victor Miller was writing the script, he had chosen “Long Night at Camp Blood” as the working title, but Cunningham was adamant that they use his “Friday the 13th” idea, so he took out an a full-page ad in International Variety magazine. It was also an experiment of sorts – to see if anyone else held the rights to “Friday the 13th”. Cunningham figured that was the easiest way to find out. As it turns out, there was a movie entitled Friday the 13th: The Orphan that had been somewhat successful. There was a threat of litigation, but nothing ever came of it.

Not long after the successful run of Friday the 13th, Paramount Pictures acquired the worldwide distribution rights. Frank Mancuso, Sr., Chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures wanted an event that would send teenagers racing to the theaters on that Friday night to see the latest episode. When a sequel was being discussed, the initial idea was to have the Friday the 13th title with a subtitle and each film being its own story, discontinuous from the last. Phil Scuderi, co-owner of Esquire Theaters, insisted that the sequel include Jason Voorhees even though his appearance at the end of the first film was only meant as a joke.

Sequels were going to be made, based on the financial success that they earned related to the minimal budgets it took to produce them. Part III saw the first 3-D version of the series, and is where Jason first dons his hockey mask which would become synonymous with the 13th series.

After the third installment, subtitles were added to the titles – as opposed to the numbering system (The Final Chapter, A New Beginning). When producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. began being associated with the Friday the 13th series – and nothing else – he decided it was time to kill Jason for good. It was Frank Mancuso, Sr. that brought him back. His reasoning was that as long as people were coming out to see the movies, he would continue to make them. A New Beginning was an experiment itself, when the focus shifted away from Jason, to Tommy who had been traumatized by his ordeal with Jason in The Final Chapter. This proved to be a mistake, and Jason was brought back in the next installment, Jason Lives.

The next five films would take the producers on a veritable rollercoaster ride. The New Blood brought back the ever popular “final girl” ending that had been so successful before. When plans were made to take Jason away from Crystal Lake and place him in a larger environment, the producer came up with Jason Takes Manhattan, but had to come up with a way to get him there. They wound up with the majority of the movie on a cruise ship. It was during this time that Cunningham reacquired the rights to the Friday franchise in order to produce a crossover film featuring the newly popular Freddy Kruger. This is where the majority of their trouble would begin. Before production could begin on Freddy vs. Jason, Wes Craven began work on New Nightmare. Hoping to keep interest in Jason up until F vs. J could be released, Cunningham would produce The Final Friday, wait 11 years, and release Jason X. X was the lowest grossing Friday film, and subsequently the most expensive to make. After 15 years of on-and-off development, and over $6 million spent on 18 scripts, Cunningham was able to produce Freddy vs. Jason. In 2007, Andrew Form and Brad Fuller were approached by New Line Cinemas about doing a “reboot” of the Friday the 13th series. Through negotiations with Paramount, who still owned some parts of the series, it was decided that the project would move forward. In 2009, a new 3D version of Friday the 13th was released in theaters.

There has been talk of doing Part 2 of the rebooted series, but with the economy in a slump neither of the film companies wants to make a $20 million gamble that it would be a success at the box office. Until then, we’ll just have to keep them in our Netflix queue or buy them out right. Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies!

By Jim Joplin

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