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New Line wins intense auction for ‘Weapons’, the new film from ‘Barbarian’ filmmaker Zach Cregger

The buzz had been building for over two weeks. A new project from Zach Cregger, the filmmaker from scratch behind the cult horror hit Barbariancame.

There were unprecedented offers, some as high as eight figures, before the project was launched. Producers called Cregger’s reps and begged to be involved. No dice. No one got a peak until it hit the market on the morning of January 22.

In the 24 hours following Cregger’s new horror project, Weaponswas sent to Hollywood studios, a short but intense bidding war erupted and just as quickly a great deal was struck.

New Line completed whirlwind negotiations on Tuesday and won the rights to Weaponssigning a deal that seems unprecedented in modern times, especially for a filmmaker with essentially only one film to his name.

Yep, there’s the money – eight figures to write and direct – according to sources. The numbers are more than double the total budget of his previous film. That alone is remarkable, harking back to an older era of Hollywood where spec sales sparked weekend war frenzy.

But there’s more. There is guaranteed green light. There is Cregger who receives the final version, pending a threshold during test impressions. There is a majority stake in a backend pot. And of course there is the guarantee of a cinema release.

“Zach proved with Barbarian that he can create a deeply rooted theatrical experience for the audience and that he has mastered every tool in the filmmaker’s tool belt,” New Line’s president and CCO, Richard Brener, said in a statement. ‘We couldn’t be happier than him, Roy [Lee] and Miri [Yoon]and JD [Lifshitz]and Rafie [Margules] chose New Line as the home of his next film, and I hope it’s the first of many to follow.

Sources say if this project goes well, a goal would be for Cregger to eventually become a major horror voice and supplier to the Warners/New Line film factory.

All this underscores the prodigy status Cregger achieved thanks to his horror hit, Barbarian. The writer-director was an actor and comedian, and co-founder of the comedy troupe The Whitest Kids U’ Know. He co-directed and co-wrote a little-seen 2009 film titled Mrs Marchan ultra-low budget road comedy about the search for one Playboy centerfold, and was part of the TBS comedy ensemble, Scrapped.

Then came Barbarian. It’s hard to describe the film without revealing its twists and turns, but Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgard and Justin Long starred in a story about a woman who is double-booked at an Airbnb in a very shady Detroit neighborhood. Without spoiling anything, let’s just say “never go in the basement” has never been better advice.

The film premiered at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2022 and then opened in September to rave reviews. Critics and audiences went slack as Cregger’s film weaved together several seemingly disparate elements to create one of the most original and scariest films of the year. Released by 20th Century Studios and financed by New Regency, the film grossed over $40 million domestically (it only had a limited international release, where it grossed $5 million) on a budget of $4.5 million, and was one of the films that contributed to the strong horror wave of 2022.

And it suddenly put Creggar on the list of filmmakers many major actors, producers and studios wanted to do business with. When word of a new project began to spread, jockeying began in earnest.

Plot details of Weapons are kept in the holster, but it is described as a horror epic with multiple and interrelated stories that is tonally along the lines of Magnoliathe 1999 actor-packed showcase by filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson.

In addition to writing and directing, Cregger will also produce with Vertigo Entertainment’s Roy Lee, as well as Boulderlight Productions’ JD Lifshitz and Raphael Margules, who all produced Barbarian. Vertigo’s Miri Yoon will also be producing.

The fact that Cregger had a new project was an open secret, but getting his hands on the new material was anything but easy. Despite the blind offers, Cregger’s camp, which consists of CAA, Artists First and law firm Jackoway Austen, held out.

The high security and tension of the procedure was reminiscent of the heady days that greeted certain filmmakers in the early 2000s. After-The Sixth SenseFor example, scripts released by M. Night Shyamalan were practically events, a time when a hard copy was delivered to a studio head in a briefcase and had to be read in the presence of the courier.

This is the 2020s, Weapons was sent via Embershot, a secure content sharing app that can monitor how often the script is read and even what page a reader is on.

Offers immediately started pouring in, but unlike other bidding wars where streamers could get involved, this one saw studios bowing hard. According to sources, it ultimately came down to Universal and Warner Bros.’ New Line division. Even after a late-night session that bled into the early hours, it was unclear who the winner was. New Line finally closed the deal on Tuesday afternoon, with Warners’ photo group co-chairman Michael De Luca also getting involved. According to one source, it was less money up front than a potential Netflix deal, but the potential upside via a guaranteed theatrical release that could more than make up for it was a big selling point.

As for Cregger, this moment has been more than a decade in the making, after feeling like he was stuck in Hollywood. As the filmmaker told THR last year from his trip to Barbarian: “I just started writing and I’ve written a lot of scripts. Some of them were good, some of them were bad. And finally I got this. So it was a long process. It was like working in this position 10 years ago.

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