While it played to a precious few fans, the indie horror film "Creature" did manage to put the fear of god into its producers, and pretty much everyone else associated with the film, at the weekend box office.
The film grossed only $331,000 opening up in 1,507 U.S. theaters this weekend, making it the worst premiere ever for a film opening in 1,500 locations or more, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.
On a per screen basis, the horror film's debut was even worst than that of "Transylmania," an indie horror comedy that set the record for worst opening for a film opening in 1,000 or more theaters.
"Transylmania" grossed a miserable $263,941, opening up at 1,007 locations in December 2009, averaging $262 per engagement. "Creature" averaged only $220 per theater.
Putting that in perspective, $220 is about what one row of moviegoers spent on popcorn for the last "Harry Potter" movie.
The story of a swamp monster living in the Louisiana Bayou, "Creature" was produced for an undisclosed "microbudget" and self-distributed by Sid and Jon Sheinberg's Bubble Factory — Sid being the president of Universal Studios during the release of "Jaws," "ET" and "Jurassic Park."
Also read: Horror Movies Hit the Dead Zone This Summer
The film was directed by Fred Andrews, a veteran production designer for TV procedural dramas like "CSI: Miami" and "Without a Trace," who oversaw a cast of largely no-name actors.
As for the plot, stop us if you've heard this before: gang of young adults gets into scary inbred trouble when they venture into a sparsely populated rural area.
The logline: An ex-Navy seal (played by "True Blood's" Mehcad Brooks), his girlfriend (Serinda Swan of "Breakout Kings") and their friends head out on a road trip to New Orleans. The group decides to stop at a roadside convenience store owned by Chopper (veteran horror actor Sid Haig), who tells them the tale of Lockjaw, a fabled god-like creature who is half-man, half-alligator.
Of course, their curiousity means that they have to meet Lockjaw themselves … leading to scary results for the roughly 35,000 people who paid to see the film … or maybe not so scary. There was certainly little buzz about this movie, which wasn't screened for critics prior to its release. (Rotten Tomatoes gave it a "6 percent fresh" rating, which was precisley 6 percent more than Sony comedy "Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star" received, perhaps meaning "Creature" wasn't necessarily the worst film, qualitatively, of the weekend.)
The film was promoted, but only to a point.
The producers say they made "significant" TV ad buys, buying spots on low-cost NBCU cable channels including SyFy, G4, and E!.
"We produced and self-distributed "Creature" with a great deal of enthusiasm and we knew we needed to be innovative and bold with our release plan," said Jon Sheinberg of Bubble Releasing, in statement shortly before the film's Friday release. "Hopefully we will pave the way for independent filmmakers to have a new template for indie films to be released on a national level."
Well, they've got their template, just not the one Sheinberg had in mind.