The Big Gamble On Friday The 13th By Frank Mancuso Sr.

The Friday The 13th franchise is a true juggernaut in film, merchandise and pop culture. The franchise's number one character, Jason Voorhees, can be found just about everywhere; as an action figure, in video games, and even as a plush doll. As successful as the brand has been for over three decades, the origins of the financial behemoth can be traced back to it's independent film roots and the big gamble that Paramount executive Frank Mancuso Sr. took on transforming the landscape of film-making in the 1980's

Frank saw something special in Sean Cunningham's small budgeted independent Horror film titled Friday The 13th. In order to capitalize on the right place and right time feeling he had about the film, Mancuso had to strategize a way to release the film in enough screens to reach a mass audience without the high costs of a true wide release. Marketing the film was the true key to the success of the film and the birth of a franchise.

Mancuso sidestepped the traditional distribution pattern usually afforded to bigger pictures of that time, yet he did not completely disregard Friday The 13th by releasing it directly to small markets and drive-in theaters. Instead, he gave his low-budget negative pickup a large marketing campaign that highlighted the film’s main selling point of creative murder sequences. Frank also refused to screen Friday The 13th in advance for critics, a move that would famously irritate film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert for many years to come.

Friday The 13th opened on 1,127 screens on May 9, 1980 and was tops at the box office with a three-day opening gross of $5.8 million. The release date was genius as it afforded the burgeoning Horror property a chance to earn money before the beginning of the summer movie season (a season that now seems to begin in April). What was remarkable to industry observers was the film’s lasting staying power among movie-goers. Friday the 13th would go on to place second behind only The Empire Strikes Back as the top money-earner of the summer. Sean Cunningham's film would also go on to out-gross much larger studio genre projects such as Brian DePalma’s Dressed to Kill and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. By the end of its theatrical run, Friday The 13th would pull in an unbelievable $39.7 million domestic run at the box office with over 14 million tickets sold.

Frank Mancuso Sr.'s big gamble paid off with huge dividends for the film's creator, investors and studio. Not only was it a financial windfall that would change their lives, but Friday The 13th 1980 changed the face of film industry for the next decade and introduced Horror fans to one of the most popular film franchises in cinema history!