'I Spit on Your Grave' Marks CineTel's Bold Return to Theatrical Distribution


For its first theatrical release in five years, CineTel returned to the grave. Their updated version of the infamous 1970s slasher flick "I Spit On Your Grave" comes as part of a new relationship with Anchor Bay (a division of Liberty Media/Starz Media) that guaranteed a level of revenue from the U.S. market that insured CineTel would at least break even on their roughly $2 million investment.

It took patience and a strong sales job to bring back to the screen a movie critic Roger Ebert famously called "a vile bag of garbage ... without a shred of artistic distinction." The rights to the controversial film first released in 1978 as "Day of the Woman" belonged to director- producer-writer Meir Zarchi.

"A lot of people had approached me over the years," Zarchi says, "but I rejected them. I didn't like their [vision] for the film. With CineTel, I gauged their respect for the original. I saw they really cared. They really liked it. I believed they would give the remake the best shot possible."

Still, Zarchi dragged out the negotiations for four months, and even that helped win the day. "They stuck it out," Zarchi says. "It showed they really wanted to make the deal."

CineTel founder Paul Hertzberg set up the picture for domestic distribution through Anchor Bay, where executive vp Kevin Kasha felt comfortable based on having worked with CineTel in the past. "They've always been straight shooters in the 20 years I've known them," Kasha says. "They tell me what they can do, what they can't do and there are no surprises. Then the end result -- the program -- is always delivered for the audience."

Hansen took pitches from a number of writers and writer-directors. "A lot of them were re-imaginings of the original, but with such a passionate fan base we thought that would be a tragic mistake," she says. "We ultimately went with a story similar to the original but updated, and it answered some of the questions from the original."

"Spit" director Steven Monroe says he liked working with CineTel because "they listen. And when they bring someone on, they trust them. That's very important."

CineTel vp creative affairs Neil Elman worked with Monroe on the final edit and when he thought it was right, he showed it to Hansen. "In the editing room she said, 'This can be better,' at a time everyone's eyes are already on every frame," Elman says. "She said, 'This is too slow,' or 'Not intense enough.' I sat there and watched her make it better. Rarely is her instinct wrong and I respect that."