Universal’s Monsterverse has risen from the grave and is back on track after it was left for dead after the mediocre box office returns of 2017’s The Mummy.
Following the success of The Invisible Man’s No. 1 opening on Feb. 28 and its $98.3 million haul so far, Universal is once again taking steps to revive its fabled stable of classic monsters and bringing them to the big screen. These new films will be stand-alone, moderately budgeted efforts, avoiding the attempt at an interconnected movie universe.
The latest announcement is the new Dracula feature directed by Karyn Kusama (Destroyer). Kusama is no stranger to the horror genre, having helmed such projects as the Diablo Cody-penned cult classic Jennifer’s Body and directing several episodes of such series as HBO’s freshman hit The Outsider, based on the Stephen King horror-crime novel, and Showtime’s Billions.
Universal’s new approach to bringing these classic monsters to the big screen takes a filmmaker-driven approach to the characters as opposed to a star-driven strategy, which Universal attempted with 2017’s The Mummy that starred Tom Cruise. Te movie’s middling performance of $409 million worldwide take after a $125 million budget — derailed the studios plans for an interrelated movie universe à la Marvel featuring A-List stars such as Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, and Javier Bardem.
The Hollywood Reporter learned that now, instead of hearing pitches and reading scripts that tie monsters together, Universal execs are telling filmmakers that storytelling is the star and as one producer was quoted as saying, “It’s a ‘best idea wins’ approach, and they are having the filmmakers find the individual stories.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions, which breathed new life in the new monster movie line by making The Invisible Man for only $7 million, is setting up the vampire thriller. The project isn’t housed at Universal yet, and technically, it could be made at another studio as Dracula is a property in the public domain, but that is highly unlikely given that Blumhouse has a first-look deal with the studio and Universal isn’t about to let one of its iconic monsters escape the fold.
Like The Invisible Man, which offers a contemporary spin on the classic H.G. Wells novel, a new Dracula would take place in modern times. Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay, who has collaborated with Kusama on several films, including Destroyer and The Invitation, are writing the script. The Dracula development comes on the heels of another legacy monster project being set up, an untitled horror thriller to be produced by James Wan.
An agent, familiar with the studios’ plans told The Hollywood Reporter that Universal Studios is working with filmmakers such as Paul Feig, Elizabeth Banks, and John Krasinski, even developing multiple takes on one character, mentioning that they “have multiple irons in the fire, but not all will become real.“
The movies don’t have a strict budget range, though those in the moderate ranges seem popular at this stage. And no project seems to be ready to go before cameras, though an Invisible Man sequel from its director, Leigh Whannell, is expected, it was also reported the Whannell is being eyed for other properties in the new Monsterverse.
Getting the universe right had until recently proved elusive for Universal, even with a headliner such as Dracula. The studio most recently tackled the blood-sucking count with 2014’s Dracula Untold, which earned $217 million worldwide.
“It shows that by being very agile, they were able to pivot and try a new direction,” says Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “Had Invisible Man not worked, that would have been a cause for concern. But this sets them up very nicely.”
No release date for the Dracula movie has been announced.
NEWS WATCH: Universal Studios Resurrects Monsterverse Starting With Dracula Movie
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