Screen Gems and Sony Pictures are betting big on horror and placing their chips on one of the genre’s big names.
The divisions have signed Gary Dauberman — the multi-hyphenate who has been involved in some of the biggest horror franchises of the past decade, including It, Annabelle, and The Nun — to a first-look deal for feature films.
The move comes as Sony seeks to rebuild Screen Gems, its division focused on lower-budgeted fare, into a more productive label, with horror being a top focus. The refurbishment comes under Ashley Brucks, who took on the role of president in September after the retirement of Steve Bersch.
Dauberman, who has worn hats of writer, director, and producer for his wide-ranging projects, will bring his millinery to the Culver City lot, creating projects for himself while curating a slate featuring established and up-and-coming filmmakers.
“Involved in some of the biggest horror franchises in the last 10 years, Gary has an extraordinary ability to create and build out terrifying worlds and create a visceral experience through thoughtfully crafted story and characters,” said Brucks in a statement. “He’s a force in the horror genre space and we are thrilled to be partnering with him at Screen Gems as he continues to come up with new and creative ways of entertaining and scaring audiences.”
Dauberman wrote the two-part adaptation of Stephen King’s It, with the first part became the highest-grossing horror movie of all time. He also wrote Annabelle, Annabelle: Creation, Annabelle Comes Home, and The Nun, all integral parts of James Wan’s The Conjuring Universe, which has become the highest-grossing horror franchise of all time. Dauberman moved from behind the typewriter to behind the camera, making his directorial debut with Annabelle Comes Home, and has served in a producer capacity of many of those titles, as well as DC streaming series Swamp Thing.
Up next is his adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, which he wrote and directed for Warner Bros. He is currently developing a live-action take on 1980s animated series Gargoyles for Disney+ and is in development on Stray Dogs, which is based on the hit Image Comic by Tony Fleecs.
“I am thrilled to be part of the exciting new chapter of horror at Sony Pictures and Screen Gems,” said Dauberman in a statement. “I’m truly inspired by Ashley’s energy, instincts, and vision for the genre space, and I thank Josh and Sanford for their trust and support, and their commitment to horror fans.”
Dauberman’s first-look is the latest salvo in a horror arms race, as studios try to lock up talent for a genre that has, for the most part, proven to withstand the stresses at the box office.
Paramount has a burgeoning horror banner being run by Walter Hamada, who worked with Dauberman when he oversaw horror at New Line, and has a first-look with Smile filmmaker Parker Finn. Universal nabbed Wan once he was untethered from New Line, with the filmmaker teaming up with Blumhouse, which is housed at the studio. New Line is attempting to restock its horror cupboard, tying up Barbarian shingle BoulderLight Pictures.
Dauberman is repped by CAA, Industry Entertainment, and Felker Toczek