Event Horizon

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    • Directed By: Paul W.S. Anderson
    • Written By: Philip Eisner
    • Release Date: August 15, 1997
    • Domestic Distributor: Paramount
    • Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Jack Noseworthy

Box Office Info:
Budget: $50 millionFinanced by: Paramount; ICE Insured Finance LLC
Domestic Gross: $26,673,242Overseas Gross: $20,500,000

event horizon 1997
The budget for Event Horizon was $50 million and majority financing came from Paramount and additional coin came from ICE Insured Finance LLC, which was an insurance backed funding scheme that ended in a major lawsuit.  Back in 1996, Paramount had setup slate financing arrangements with JPMorgan (at the time they were Chemical Bank) to cover 25 productions.  The second slate of pictures were ICE insured, which covered the productions of Event Horizon, The Saint, Face/Off and Twilight.

The insurance funding scheme had JPMorgan create loans to other companies, who would then purchase profit participation points in the Paramount films.  JPMorgan tried to make the loans “risk free” through insurance and the idea was that any shortfall on their end that did not cover the complete cost of the loans would be paid off by the insurance company.  The insurers eventually claimed that the loans were fraudulently obtained, which left JPMorgan responsible for the loans.  The bank attempted to get Paramount to contribute to the loans, but no deal was ultimately reached.

Fast forwarding to 2006 — a company was launched called Content Partners, which would buy out participation points from movies and they had earned themselves a reputation as a “scavenger” company.  Content Partners had acquired the backend points to the ICE insured movies (and other insurance backed Paramount pictures) and then sued Paramount, claiming the studio owed them tens of millions in participation revenue.  JPMorgan then used this as an opportunity to go around Paramount and try to unload these movie loans from the ’90s and being the unscrupulous bankers that they are, JPMorgan (according to Paramount) engaged in “civil conspiracy” to assign their controlling stake in the films to Content Partners.  Paramount countersued and eventually all sides settled, with none admitting any wrongdoing and the terms were not disclosed to the public.

Back to the production of Event Horizon.  Director Paul W.S. Anderson had made his debut with the low budget UK action pic Shopping (1994), which landed him the Mortal Kombat (1995) helming job and after that became a hit, Paramount brought him onboard for Event Horizon.  He was also in active development on the picture Soldier with Kurt Russell, but shortly before it was to enter production, that project was delayed over budget concerns and also for Russell to have time to bulk up.  During this delay, Anderson went off to helm Event Horizon.

W.S. Anderson was reportedly given a significant amount of creative freedom during filming of Event Horizon, but problems began while it was in post.  After Paramount had entered a co-financing and domestic distribution arrangement with FOX for Titanic and once it was clear that it would not be ready for its July 4, 1997 release — the studio inexplicably chose Event Horizon to be pushed forward as a major summer release.  Paramount imposed a very tight post-production schedule of six weeks, despite Anderson having the contractual right from the Director’s Guild to have a ten week editing session.  When editing began, there were still two additional weeks left of filming and the movie was hastily cobbled together in just over four weeks.

When a 130 minute assembly cut was thrown together, it was tested and the audience response was very poor.  Executives ordered the picture trimmed for running time and for excess gore and Event Horizon was gutted.  The runtime clocked in at a lean 96 minutes and much of the gruesome content was excised.  Anderson has repeatedly stated that most of the cut footage has been lost and what little had been found was too degraded to restore into a director’s cut.

Event Horizon was dated for the slow end of summer frame on August 15, 1997 and bowed against Cop Land and the joke of a movie Steel starring Shaquille O’Neal.  Despite the expensive price tag attached to the film, Event Horizon was tracking like a standard genre picture and was dismissed as rubbish by critics.  The following weekend would see the release of another genre pic with audience overlap Mimic.  And marketing was also in full swing for another Laurence Fishburne movie that was opening in just two weeks from MGM Hoodlum.

Event Horizon opened with $9,511,915 — placing #4 for the weekend led by Cop Land.  Auds gave the movie a hateful D+ cinemascore and it sank 54.2% to $4,357,366 in its second frame and the domestic run closed with only $26,673,242.

The film did not fare any better overseas, where theatrical receipts stalled at $20.5M.  The worldwide cume was $47.1M.  Paramount would see returned about $25.9M after theaters take their percentage of the gross — which would cover only about half of the global P&A expenses and none of the budget.  Paramount’s parent corp Viacom announced an unspecified, but very large write-off on the movie.  Event Horizon eventually found cult success on home video.

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