47 Meters Down: the indie British film that stormed America

Director Johannes Roberts has slowly been building up a deserved reputation for his work in horror cinema. Movies such as F, Storage 24 and The Other Side Of The Door have built him a following. But still, moving onto shark thriller 47 Metres Down was something of a challenge. Filmed primarily in the UK, and starring Mandy Moore and Claire Holt, the movie – that Roberts co-wrote – is a taut thriller, following two sisters in Mexico who want to see sharks up close. Thus, they book a trip in a cage dive, which is all going fine and dandy until the cable holding the cage breaks. The pair are sent to the bottom of the ocean – 47 metres below the surface as it happens – with air in short supply and sharks swimming around them.

The film proved to be the sleeper hit of the summer at the American box office, too. Grossing over $40m against some pretty stiff opposition, the movie is the highest grossing indie film of the year in the US as well. But fate nearly played the film a different card.

Originally, the movie had been backed by Dimension Films, but it opted not to give the film a cinema release. As such, it arranged for the film to get a video on demand and DVD release in America, penciling in a release date of August 2nd 2016. It likely would have found an audience off the back of that, just not a very big one.

But then Entertainment Studios interjected. It caught a cut of the film and very much liked what it saw. It felt that the 90 minute thriller deserved a better fate, and bought the rights to the movie. By this time, Dimension had changed the name of the film to In The Deep, and had begun sending out review copies of the DVDs. Furthermore, one or two retailers sold the DVD for a day or two as well.

Entertainment, though, had bigger films. It cancelled the planned DVD release, and instead set its sights on a theatrical debut for the movie. That wouldn’t follow for another year though, with a release date of June 16th 2017 earmarked. Even then, predictions for the film – then back to its original title of 47 Meters Down – were modest. That’s not a surprise, either, given how stiff the competition was. Wonder Woman was riding high, Cars 3 was zooming into cinemas, and star-studded high profile comedy Rough Night was opening too.

But 47 Meters Down caught on. It doubled its production budget in just three days in the US, and stayed around the top ten for several weeks. Roberts’ profile shot up, to the point where he landed the job of directing The Strangers 2, whilst the film arrived too on cinemas in the UK. With the UK spelling of ‘metres’ in the title!

Stories like this are increasingly rare in Hollywood, given that big blockbusters tend to hog screen space. Not that 47 Metres Down doesn’t deserve its success. Roberts is clearly versed in shark movie lore, and has a lot of fun, pulling some good surprises, and delivering a tight, intriguing thriller. For those who missed it on its theatrical run, it’s on digital download now, and heading to DVD next week.

And for Roberts? There’s more shark action on the horizon. He’s hard at work putting together the story for an unexpected sequel to the movie. Its title? 48 Metres Down

47 Metres Down is out to download now and on DVD 27th November

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