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The Curious Case of ''Case 39''

Bradley Cooper and Renée Zellweger began filming the finally-released horror flick in 2006

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Join us, if you will, on a trip back to 2006. It was the year Renée Zellweger starred in Case 39, her first horror film since 1994’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. Just two years after winning an Oscar for Cold Mountain, she played a social worker who rescues a little girl from what she thinks is an abusive household. But the tyke might just be evil incarnate. Bradley Cooper — then best known as Owen Wilson’s jerk rival from Wedding Crashers — costarred as a kiddie shrink.

You’ve never heard of this movie? Neither has most of America. After wrapping production in early 2007, Case 39 spent the next three and a half years in Hollywood purgatory, awaiting a U.S. release. First it was scheduled to open in February 2008. Then April 2009. Then…nothing. But last month, following a successful overseas run that yielded $15 million in grosses, Paramount announced that Case 39 will really, truly hit American theaters on Oct. 1. ”It’s a big relief. It’s been frustrating, obviously,” says director Christian Alvart. ”If you make a movie, you make it at a certain time in your career and you want it to come out close to that time, not when you’ve already moved on.”

As Alvart understands it, the $26 million-budgeted Case 39 fell through the cracks because it was never a priority for the studio. ”We are a very small film for them,” he says. ”So when they reshuffled their schedule, we always went to the back of the line.” (The execs who greenlit the project also left the studio in 2009.) Paramount declined to comment on the film’s delayed release, other than to say that the $7 million earned by Case 39 in Spain and Mexico over the past year persuaded the studio to target Hispanic audiences in the U.S. That might sound strange — it’s not as if the movie was written with that particular audience in mind. But Latino moviegoers historically respond well to the horror genre. ”Not so much the slasher things, but really the supernatural is what we’re drawn to,” says Gabriel Reyes, a marketer who works with studios on Hispanic outreach campaigns. ”So based on the international box office, if they do a good job on the marketing, they have a good chance to build from the Latin audiences up.”

Even if Case 39 is a hit, its costars aren’t likely to revel in the success: Both declined to speak about the film, which suggests they might not share Alvart’s joy over its resurrection. In the years since the film wrapped, the actors’ fortunes have flip-flopped. While Cooper’s career has exploded thanks to The Hangover, Zellweger’s has cooled off considerably. (The stars also became a couple last year.) As for the German-born Alvart, he’s made two movies in the interim: last year’s Dennis Quaid box office fizzler Pandorum and the German thriller 8 Uhr 28. At the moment, he hopes Paramount will stick to the release plan this time. ”It looks good, but I’ve thought that many times before,” Alvart laughs. ”I won’t believe it until it’s in the theaters.”


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