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‘Friday the 13th’ Is Good Luck for Sales

Associated Press

With all the hoopla over Mick Dundee, John Rambo, Willow Ufgood and other heroes of the new film season, the infamous Jason could be overlooked.

But not by Paramount Pictures.

“ ‘Friday the 13th’ is a gold mine that keeps on rolling along,” declares Sidney Ganis, president of worldwide marketing for Paramount. The studio reports that the first six films in the series have grossed more than $172 million, along with the revenue from videocassette sales, cable TV showings and a TV series spinoff. Just 18 days after its release, “Friday the 13th, Part VII--The New Blood” had already logged almost $16 million in ticket sales in the United States and Canada. The film cost $3.5 million to make--about 1/18th the budget of “Rambo III"--and should, therefore, be solidly in the black.

Like its predecessors, “Part VII” was released on its namesake date--Friday the 13th of May, in this case. The films released on that day do better business, the studio said.

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“Jason has become part of the vernacular,” Ganis said of the series’ insatiable killer. “Why? I think because he is genuinely frightening, and teen-agers genuinely love to be frightened. My own daughter loved ‘Friday the 13th III.’ Now she has seen ‘VII'--and then she goes to see ‘The Moderns.’ A whole generation has grown up on Jason and keeps going back.”

Jason’s rampaging career began quite modestly in a low-budget thriller created by producer-director Sean Cunningham in 1980. Ironically, Cunningham had originally devised the title for a children’s television show he was planning, but he thought it might work as the title of a feature film. Apparently he was right. “Friday the 13th” grossed $40 million.

Cunningham, who is now filming another horror movie, “Deep Six,” signed over his rights to the title to Paramount, and there have been five other “Friday the 13th” directors since. The other installments, however, follow the formula of the original: The action--and there is always lots of it--takes place at Camp Crystal Lake. Jason, wearing a hockey mask and wielding an ax, returns from the dead intent on satisfying a grudge.

John Carl Buechler, a special-effects expert who now directs movies (“Troll,” “Cellar Dweller”), directed “Friday the 13th, Part VII” from a script by Daryl Haney. Buechler says he saw possibilities in adding a couple of twists to the saga.

“One, I thought it would be good to have a main character in the story--someone the audience could cry and cheer for--and follow her through the nightmare world,” he said. “She is the teen-ager (Lar Park Lincoln) whose special powers release Jason from his grave at the bottom of the lake. Telling the story from one person’s viewpoint had only been done once before,” in Part V.

“Two, I added a substantial element of the supernatural. Before Part VII, Jason was a mindless man who jumped out of closets and killed people. Since he was resurrected by electricity in Part VI, he was now, practically speaking, a ghost. That made him a virtually unstoppable humanoid. So I thought it would be fun to fill the last two reels with false endings. I wanted the audience to say, ‘Oh, he’s up.’ ‘Now he’s down’. ‘He’s dead. No, he’s up again!’ My aim was more fantasy than reality.”


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