The U.S. remake of “Ringu,” a Japanese horror film released in January 1998, has been scaring audiences across North America.

“The Ring,” directed by Gore Verbinski (“The Mexican,” “Mouse Hunt”) and starring award-winning Australian actress Naomi Watts, premiered Oct. 18.

It rose to the top of the box office by the end of its first week, but slipped to second spot the following week. By Sunday, it had brought in a cumulative total of $86.1 million.

The original version, “Ringu,” directed by Hideo Nakata, triggered a horror movie boom in Japan, and contracts have been signed to remake some of Nakata’s other films, including “Joyu Rei” (“The Soul of an Actress”) and “Honogurai Mizu no Sokokara” (“From the Bottom of Dusky Water”).

Japanese film industry sources said a similar offer has been made for “Kairo” (“Circuit”), directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

Selling the remake rights for “Ringu” to a major U.S. movie company created a favorable influence on the subsequent signing of the contract for “Joyu Rei,” according to an official of satellite broadcasting company Wowow who participated in the “Joyu Rei” contract talks.

Walter Parkes, who heads the movie division of U.S. film company DreamWorks, handled the making of “The Ring.”

One of Parkes’ subordinates handed him a video of “Ringu” in January 2001. After viewing it at home, Parkes decided to buy the rights to remake the low-budget Japanese film. DreamWorks reportedly bought the rights for about $1 million, or about 80 percent of the cost of turning out the original Japanese film.

Parkes said the classic horror movie elements of sudden, surprising sounds and images meshed well with the Japanese supernatural elements.

“I had been thinking of ways to sell Japanese movies abroad, but it was hard to sell them in the United States,” said Yasushi Shiina, president of Asmik Ace Entertainment Inc.

Shiina said that if filmmakers in Japan could sell the rights to remake their films in other countries, it could also raise interest in the homegrown originals.

“That’s the area where Japanese movie-making companies can demonstrate their wisdom, since they don’t have money (compared with their U.S. counterparts),” he said.

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