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Horrors! Urban Audiences Love 'Em

27 Oct, 2004 By: Holly J. Wagner

This time of year, there's nothing like a good scare — and urban audiences love horror.

“Part of it may be that the age group is the thing. It's not that it's an urban market; it's a young market,” said Dan Gurlitz, VP of video at Koch Entertainment. “I'm sure there are many 48-year-old guys who want to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street, but those are the guys who got into horror when they were younger.”

Koch's catalog is about 10 percent horror, Gurlitz said, and the company will launch producer Charlie Band's “Forbidden Worlds” films next year. Among the first releases, scheduled for February, are the short film trilogy Urban Evil: A Trilogy of Terror and Possessed.

Others agree that horror films do well with younger audiences, especially 18- to 25-year-old men.

“They tend to go for action, horror, certain kinds of stars and certain types of music. [For] the ‘Jeepers Creepers' movies, when we release movies for Halloween, we target this audience — young males who define themselves as part of this group,” said Blake Thomas, EVP of worldwide marketing for MGM Home Entertainment.

Combining elements of hip-hop culture or street fashions can help with urban audiences, but it isn't a prerequisite.

“I think what you will find is the horror genre across the board is not necessarily the number one genre with urban audiences. You have to break it down by age. It's a multicultural market, and the urban aesthetic is driving that market right now,” said Jeff Clanagan, president of UrbanWorks.

“When we talk about urban films, [that audience] overindexes on crime, action and horror films,” Thomas said.

And a good horror film must be scary and have great special effects and makeup, Koch's Gurlitz said. “Special effects are a lot of the game. You are not going to have a vampire film that much different from other vampire films: They drink your blood.”

The keys to good horror films, suppliers said, are a good story and startling or inventive effects.

“One, cast. Two, is it a good movie? Because I think good horror movies do well with that audience, and there are a lot of bad ones,” Clanagan said. “Traditionally, horror movies have been made on a low budget. It's easier to succeed because the audience is not looking for all the bells and whistles. They are looking for a good scare. If you have a good script, you can make that into a full-length feature.”

Horror films need not be high-budget epics to do well, Gurlitz agreed.

“The title of the film is important. The box art is absolutely important. You are not selling star power; Jack Nicholson is not in these movies. Having a girl on the cover doesn't hurt it,” Gurlitz said.

“If you look at the stuff from 10 or 20 years ago and you look at the stuff now, it is just night and day. The audience is used to seeing a lot more stuff,” Clanagan said.

“I would not throw bonus materials on [a horror title]. I would just leave the horror movie [as is] and let them figure it out. Kids watching horror movies that watch how they made the monster or whatever, they don't want to put it back in the machine again.”

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