How 'The Shallows' Saved Mandy Moore's Shark Attack Movie, '47 Meters Down'
By John Boone
This summer, it's Mandy Moore's turn to fight a shark. In 47 Meters Down (out June 16), the onetime "Candy" singer stars alongside Vampire Diaries actress Claire Holt as two sisters whose vacation takes a turn for the worst when their diving cage breaks away from a boat and sinks to the bottom of the ocean. To get to safety, the sisters will have to swim through waters infested by bloodthirsty great white sharks. Guess how far that swim is? Anyway, here's something strange: I own a copy of this movie on DVD, except it's titled In the Deep.
That's because 47 Meters Down was initially set to be released straight-to-DVD last August, just a little over a month after the summer's other shark attack movie, The Shallows, hit theaters on June 24. (Another weird fact: In the Deep, which 47 Meters Down was briefly rebranded, was the original name of The Shallows from Anthony Jaswinski's script.) In the end, it's not that The Shallows shark had to die so that the 47 Meters Down shark could live. It's that The Shallows shark had to survive.
Here is the business side of it: Dimension Films and Anchor Bay Entertainment planned the home release for 47 Meters Down, hyping the film as "the greatest shark movie of all time to hit your screens since JAWS!" Just one week before it's release, that plan was scrapped after Entertainment Studios swooped in, purchased the finished film and announced a theatrical run set for summer 2017. "We paid a premium for 47 Meters Down," Entertainment Studios CEO Byron Allen told Variety. "Because we really believe in the genre and in the film."
And it's easy to believe in a genre movie when something similar -- in this case, The Shallows -- proved just how much there is to believe in. Despite finishing fourth at the box office during its opening weekend, behind movies like Finding Dory and Independence Day: Resurgence, The Shallows went on to gross over $119 million worldwide -- a sizable profit considering the movie was made for a mere $17 million. It also has a 77 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes (I called it "a damn good time at the movies" here at ET, while others referred to as "The Best Shark Movie Since Jaws"), and was nominated for Favorite Thriller at the People's Choice Awards, while Blake Lively earned a Choice Summer Movie Star nomination at the Teen Choice Awards. (Lively's co-star, "Steven Seagull," was snubbed.)
What likely wasn't a factor, but instead just a stroke of good timing, is Moore's star status, which experienced a massive upswing this year. Having not toplined a bona fide hit movie since 2010's Tangled, Moore followed her stint on the short-lived series, Red Band Society, with a string of pilots -- Miss Most Likely, Good Session, The Advocates -- that never made it to your television. Which is something Moore herself has said, recently opening up to ET, "I've gone through my share of career lulls and rejections and disappointment." Then, six months after she was cast in 47 Meters Down, she was cast in "The Untitled Dan Fogelman Pilot," which would premiere a year later as This Is Us, becoming a ratings juggernaut and certifiable Emmys contender. (By comparison, Lively was four years out of Gossip Girl and her last movie before The Shallows was Woody Allen's critically panned Café Society.) Who wouldn't want to watch one of the biggest stars of the small screen fight a shark on the big screen?
"All these things have helped us," director Johannes Roberts confirmed to ET at 47 Meters Down's premiere. "People really like the movie, I hope, but Mandy is just riding a wave-- Sorry, that sounds like a terrible pun. She's on top of the world! And The Shallows did so well and people really liked it. All that helped. And I think there's just an appetite for shark movies! Which is fantastic."