Intrepid Pictures makes "the kind of movies we grew up on and that we still go see," says co-founder Marc Evans. Examples include the company's thriller remake The Hitcher, which opened wide in the US last weekend, and Neil Marshall's sci-fi thriller Doomsday, currently shooting in the UK and South Africa.
Yet it was not just personal preference that led Evans (formerly chief financial officer at Revolution Studios) and fellow co-founder Trevor Macy (previously an independent producer and executive at Propaganda Films) to focus on genre films for the 15-25-year-old crowd when they launched their Los Angeles-based production and co-financing company in December 2005.
The genre focus made it easier, says Evans, to secure backing from investors including two multi-billion dollar Wall Street hedge funds and a revolving credit facility led by JP Morgan Chase. "These kinds of movies have a fairly low downside and when they break out they can make tremendous amounts of money," Evans says. "That was an easier sell to Wall Street than $100m tentpole movies."
The specialty also helped Intrepid tie up a five-year non-exclusive first-look deal with Universal Pictures and its Rogue Pictures genre label. The deal calls for Intrepid to put up half the budget for projects and produce or executive produce while Universal/Rogue puts up the other half and distributes worldwide.
Planning to work on four or five under-$25m projects a year, Intrepid and Rogue have so far joined forces on six films, most of them from third-party production companies. Before The Hitcher (a remake, directed by Dave Meyers, of the 1986 jolter, with Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes producing and Sean Bean starring) there was Waist Deep, which managed a decent $21.3m domestic gross, and The Return, with a disappointing $7.8m domestic take.
Due for release this year are comedy Balls Of Fury, from the hot Night At The Museum writing team of Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, and Bryan Bertino's Strangers.
Doomsday, which Crystal Sky is producing for Rogue and Intrepid, is a good example of the company's philosophy. One key to making genre films, says Evans, is "cost containment".
"We're trying to find ways to produce them for less than the studios. That means taking advantage of state and international rebates and tax credits."
Marshall's follow-up to The Descent makes use of UK and South African tax breaks. "The fact we're going to get it done for under $25m is remarkable," Evans declares. "It's a testament not only to Neil's ability but also to the benefits of shooting abroad."
- See The Hitcher review, p27.