This week's re-release of Art the Clown’s 2017 feature debut is part of a long-standing horror tradition — one that, today, might be more important than ever.

By Catherine Corcoran · @cathercorcoran · July 17, 2023, 10:54 AM PDT
The author (as Dawn) snaps a selfie with Art the Clown.

(Editor’s note: this guest editorial was written and submitted to FANGORIA prior to the current SAG-AFTRA strike.)

From the moment 2017’s Terrifier debuted on Netflix, the conversation around the film and its extreme, often divisive content became a part of my career. Regardless of how one feels about the subject matter, the impact of the movie (and, with Terrifier 2, the franchise) within our cultural zeitgeist as a micro-budget-indie-turned-15-million-dollar franchise remains undeniable.

And now the original film is being re-released to over 800 theaters on July 19th. It’s yet another unprecedented move from a film series seemingly built on them.

Or is it? Historically, re-releases have always played an important role within the industry. At the turn of the 20th century, the popularity of movie stars such as Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin provided distributors the opportunity and ability to capitalize on the stars’ earlier work — especially with the advent of sound, which could be added to formerly silent pictures. The eventual 20th Century Fox became the leader in this practice (ironically, on the heels of a 1918 deadly flu epidemic).


Theater chain West Coast Theatres Inc. followed suit, structuring over 20,000 movie screens across the US into various “run” categories. Second-, third-, fourth- and even fifth-run houses provided audiences at various income levels the ability to see films over time, at a variety of affordable ticket prices. The studios embraced this model on all levels. If a film was profitable, why not continue to show it?

The re-release model soon became a natural fit for a genre best known for its lower-budget inventiveness and risk-taking: the horror picture. When the 1930 Motion Picture Production Code (or the Hays Code) — an early precursor to the MPAA Film Ratings System, carrying the stated goal of “protecting the moral standards of films” — imposed restrictions on exactly what studios could show on screen, it inadvertently provided the unique ability for studios to re-release horror films to entirely new audiences.


Both the 1931 Pre-Code version of Paramount Pictures’ Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and its 1932 Post-Code reissue (which lost 15 minutes of its runtime due to “moral restrictions”) were considered box-office hits, with profits on par with the the iconic Universal Monsters films of the era. In 1934 Universal Pictures re-released an amended cut of James Whale’s 1931 Frankenstein, which was so successful that it prompted a double bill with the studio’s Dracula for a 1938 re-release. The success of these altered versions of the original films also created a mythos around the originals, with audiences actively seeking out “secret viewings” of the original creative cuts of the films — some which remain lost to this day.

A new-age monster movie no stranger to its own provocative mythos, Damien Leone’s original Terrifer actually never received a wide theatrical release. The film initially premiered at the 2016 Telluride Horror Show Film Festival before opening the IFC Midnight’s Scary Movie Showcase at Lincoln Center in July of 2017.


Prior to its Lincoln Center debut, Hays Code-esque buzz around the film was already growing, with reviewers of its previous screening stating that the film “dared to go where few films would even consider” (referencing its now infamous scene wherein my character is stripped naked, hung upside-down, and sawed in half by a hacksaw). And at a venue which houses internationally acclaimed arts organizations such as the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, and the Juilliard School, the second-only original screening ever hosted for Terrifier had the theater completely sold out.


Having been unable to walk at my own college graduation ceremony held at the same venue, I cannot even begin to describe the awe I felt returning to Lincoln Center to find audiences sitting on the floor of the theater motivated by sheer enthusiasm to see a film in which I starred. The organic support was overwhelming.


This interest surrounding Terrifier would only continue to grow when, in the fall of that following year, it was released to audiences nationwide on Netflix. Within weeks, the film would become one of the highest trending genre films on the platform. I can attest to memories of walking through New York City that October only to turn and see the film playing in bars with audiences aghast at the imagery, but also thrilled by the natural comedic and endearing elements of the characters within the film.

The once-tiny $35,000 picture was now everywhere, with fans clamoring not only to see it but also to costume themselves in character, create artwork and support a sequel. A true independent endeavor, director Damien Leone followed with a crowdfunding campaign for Terrifier 2, which would raise four times its goal within a week and go on to make history in its own right. The now-franchise truly was the little independent film that could — and yet the inaugural feature only ever screened publicly twice.



Terrifier’s July re-release is notable in other ways. It will mark the widest the film has ever received (more theaters than even the sequel originally opened to this past fall). It honors Walt Disney’s (possibly apocryphal) “seven-year rule” for re-releases. Most importantly, a theatrical re-release provides a quantifiable metric of viewers for the filmmakers, something the streamers are unable or unwilling to provide. Despite streaming platforms contributing to Terrifier’s exposure to larger audiences, just how large its actual viewership is on those platforms remains a mystery. Streamers reported revenue profits of anywhere from $50 million to $20.9 billion for the first quarter of 2023, yet the actual streaming data for individual titles remains undisclosed.


In addition, streamers such as Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV, and Amazon’s Prime Video offer much lower residual payments than their cable and physical media predecessors. This makes residual earnings for the writers, actors and directors of what may seem to be an extremely popular film or television show often reduced to pennies. As the Writers Guild of America remains on strike advocating for fair and equitable pay residuals, theatrical re-releases have become more important than ever before.

This lack of transparency continues to be the proverbial “hacksaw” of what it is to be a filmmaker. Over a decade into the streaming era, streaming continues to report massive profits while the film and television creatives responsible for the content have little career stability, with no clarity among dealmakers (and even less among audiences) regarding what the actual financial success of a film or television program hosted on these platforms truly is.


Actors, writers, and directors are storytellers, and storytellers must know who their audience is; it’s fundamental to telling a story. When this is taken away, we have absolutely no power. It means something ineffable, intangible but essential is missing from our art form. When the audience/artist relationship is completely obscured, the art and the artists suffer on all levels.

This is why the fight of the WGA for transparency within these platforms is so critical. And while the fight continues, the silver lining remains within the theaters. Every Monday, box-office totals are reported to both studio executives and to the national media for all to view, and remain fully available to the public — leaving little debate over the financial success or popularity of a film. Similar to Terrifier’s fan-driven rise, it is in this freedom of information that audiences have the truest power over the success of a film, and in this, the ability to directly support the creatives who have made it.



Now, more than ever before, when you view a film in theaters, you as audience members have the ability to directly influence that content, and the income of those creative professionals who bring these visions into reality. You are greenlighting subsequent jobs and work that they will be able to create in the future. You provide information and financial data which proves — without any doubt — whether a film is profitable and thus, how much these creatives can and should earn from their work. You are saying to studio executives all over the country that you remember the films and art which continue to bring you escape, comfort, and joy during challenging times. And in celebrating these works publicly, you insist that the creatives responsible for them receive a living wage.


The power lies with you, the audience. With every ticket purchase and popcorn order, when you support a film's theatrical release (first-run or otherwise), you support artists everywhere. Your voices now are more important than ever before and with that, we invite you — once again — to join us.

See you on the picket lines, and see you at the movies.


Terrifier was written and directed by Damien Leone and stars David Howard Thornton, Jenna Kanell, Catherine Corcoran and Samantha Scaffidi. It returns to theaters on July 19, 2023. All showtimes and tickets are available here.


Catherine Corcoran made genre film history with starring roles in Terrifier and the STARZ/ Troma Entertainment’s Return to Nuke ’Em High series. Her career also includes starring in Amazon Studios feature Long Lost and Hallmark Channel’s Last Vermont Christmas, along with roles in IFC Films’ Chuck, Gossip Girl, The Good Wife and MTV Pranks.  She has produced and written a variety of content for organizations such as Silver Sound Studios, Motown Records, Metro Esports, Zeldavision Media and HBO. Catherine's wedding ceremony was recognized as 'the first lesbian wedding in France,' by Le Figaro at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and has spoken at The Museum of Modern Art, The Film Society of Lincoln Center, The New York Academy of Dramatic Arts, UCLA and The Museum of the Moving Image.

Lincoln Center photos by Maren McGlashan, courtesy of Film at Lincoln Center.