At the last second, only weeks before filming was set to begin, the new Friday the 13th was cancelled. It was a move that came as a shock to some fans and not even the slightest surprise to others. There are always fans who have been burned so often that they believe that even when it gets a release date, starts filming, even releases a trailer, it will never be a reality. Those people just came a whole lot closer to being right.
People are still talking about this over a week later because it’s unclear exactly what happened. Why was this movie pulled right before the start of production? It’s not just because “Paramount hates the fans”. That’s lunacy. There’s more to it than that, but whatever’s going on at the studio is so chaotic that it’s tough to determine what that might be.
The first thing to be blamed for the cancellation of Friday the 13th was the box office failure of Rings. That only makes sense in the fact that both were sequels to franchises with large gaps between the previous entry and the new installment. Paramount deemed part of the failure of Rings to the fact that they waited too long. They didn’t believe that people who went to see the original in theaters would be the right age to want to see a sequel and didn’t believe that the modern teenage moviegoing audience would even remember what The Ring was.
Keep in mind, Friday the 13th was one of a couple of movies that were cancelled by the studio along with the sequel to World War Z. At the time of its announcement, I thought the reasons for the cancellation were obvious. Rings was only one in a long line of financially disappointing releases for the studio. To me, it was clear that there was way more going on behind the scenes than we were being led to believe. I speculated that the entire studio would be closing its doors.
Star Trek Beyond was one of their only really financially successful films in 2016. They’re just cancelling projects without rescheduling them and that’s pretty fishy. But Paramount also garnered a ton of Oscar nominations, so they can’t just be closing up shop.
The answer, it turns out, is that Paramount CEO Brad Grey is stepping down and someone else is coming in to replace him. When that happens, all of a studio’s unmade in-development projects are cancelled. A new chief likes to come in with a clean slate and make his own way. This means that projects like Friday the 13th get swept by the wayside.
This means that the new Friday the 13th cannot be made at Paramount. That’s not a shock, that’s all part of the original agreement. Warner Bros/New Line leased the property back to Paramount for them to make this one film. Now that it’s not happening, it can’t be made at Paramount. Luckily for most fans, it seems, that also forces production company Platinum Dunes to no longer be involved. But even if Paramount isn’t making it, that doesn’t mean anyone else is right away, either.
The rights to Friday the 13th are so murky that there’s almost no way that New Line ever even owned the series outright, the way we all thought they did. Right now, we’ve got a franchise in limbo because Paramount couldn’t make good on their deal. We’ve also got original screenwriter Victor Miller suing to get control of the franchise. If these things don’t get settled, it’s even possible that the rights would return to the original financiers from Boston that Sean Cunningham made the original rights deal with all the way back in 1980.
If these things don’t get solved soon, we could be waiting a very long time. Even in the simplest, best case scenario where the franchise has now reverted back to New Line, they wouldn’t be able to start any kind of movement until 2018, when the rights would technically snap back into place.
If the series has simply returned to Warner Bros./New Line—and that’s a big if—it could be a great thing for the franchise. Between Conjuring 2 and Lights Out, the studio had a tremendous year for horror in 2016. The House that Freddy Built has been rejuvenated and hopefully that means there will be a few more horrific offerings down the road. Jason could fit comfortably into this new climate.
But if the rights are still being figured out, if they’re tangled up as badly as they seem to be, it could also be entirely possible that we don’t see a new Friday until 2030. Either way, the franchise isn’t over. It’s just not. There’s still the video game coming later this year and that alone is a fan’s dream come true. Jason will be back. He’ll always find a way to rise from the grave when you least expect it. Usually, it’s when he most appears to be dead that he’ll suddenly spring to life—that could still wind up being the case here. Someone could already be trying to conceive a new story for the franchise when and if it returns to Warner and New Line.
Fans of the series already lived through the nine year wait between Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X. It looks like we’ll be waiting a little longer than that this time around. How much longer is anyone’s guess. Jason might not be a part of the pop culture landscape at this precise point in time, but it doesn’t mean he’s gone. People love to act like the series is over for good—even love to clamor for “original ideas” that they never see in theaters and celebrate the apparent death of the series for the sake of more originality—but they forget… he’s down there.
And he’s waiting.
Just like the rest of us.