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BoulderLight Pictures, the prolific but under-the-radar genre production banner behind last year’s surprise hit Barbarian, has signed a first-look deal with New Line Cinema.
The pact occurs on the heels of a milestone deal with New Line and Barbarian filmmaker Zach Cregger for a new feature project — titled Weapons, and fast-tracked to begin shooting in July — that reunites that movie’s team, including BoulderLight.
The first-look deal is part of the Cinderella story involving BoulderLight’s two founders, J.D. Lifshitz, 30, and Raphael Margules, 31. The two men, who are observant Orthodox Jews who met at Hebrew school (they don’t work on The Sabbath), bonded over their love of horror (Lifshitz was an avid reader of Fangoria and saw Scream 3 in theaters at the age of 7). After taking a year to study in Israel, the pair hit the road for Hollywood. Founding BoulderLight in 2012, their first project was 2013 horror movie Contracted, which had a budget of around $50,000.
Since then, the pair have produced around two movies a year, almost 20 in the past decade, each of them in the horror, sci-fi and action sphere. All of them were ultra-low-budget, most little-seen, although some garnered critical acclaim such as 2021’s four-time Independent Spirit Award nominee Wild Indian. Then came Barbarian.
Thanks to its unorthodox structure and characters, Cregger’s script was rejected by every company in town. Everyone except BoulderLight, that is. “It’s a weird movie on paper, but it’s never not funny, scary, thrilling, entertaining,” Margules told Vulture last year. “The very reasons people passed on it is why we wanted to do it.”
With financing coming and going and coming again in dramatic fashion, the movie was made for $4.5 million, led the box office on its opening weekend in September and grossed over $40 million domestically. The company, under mentorship from Roy Lee of Vertigo Entertainment, now found itself in the spotlight and (finally) on Hollywood’s radar.
Under the first-look, the plan is for BoulderLight to work on high-concept, filmmaker-driven genre stories for New Line. While budgets for these stories were not disclosed, it’s safe to say they won’t be $50,000.
“J.D. and Rafi share a passion for cinema that puts the audience first,” said New Line president and chief creative officer Richard Brener. “They have a proven ability to identify and champion stories and filmmakers that transcend genre, and no one works harder or faster as evidenced by the fact they set up a go movie with us before even moving into their offices. We couldn’t be more excited to partner with them.”
On a certain level, having a deal at New Line is a dream come true for the duo. As horror aficionados know, New Line was built on scary movies, starting with the Freddy Krueger-fronted Nightmare on Elm Street in the 1980s. In recent times, the Warner Bros. division has maintained its industry leader status, accounting for six of the top 10 horror films of all time at the box office, including No. 1 (It, with $705 million worldwide), as well as the top horror franchise in history (the Conjuring universe, with more than $2 billion worldwide and counting).
“We have long referenced New Line Cinema as the gold standard of genre entertainment and are incredibly grateful to be moving into the ‘House that Freddy Built.'” said Lifshitz and Margules in a joint statement. “It is truly a dream come true to get to work alongside so many people we genuinely admire, and we are elated to help continue the New Line legacy and remind people why they love going to the movies.”
Jack Whigham at Range Media Partners advised on the deal, which was negotiated by Benjamin Rubinfeld and Dean Bahat of law firm Ziffren Brittenham.
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