Zombies are the middle children of the otherworldly family. Vampires are the oldest brother who gets to have a room in the attic, all tripped out with a disco ball and shag carpet. Werewolves are the youngest, the babies, always getting pinched and told they're cute. With all that attention stolen away from the middle child zombie, no wonder she shuffles off grumbling, "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha."

- Kevin James Breaux

Monday, February 3, 2014

January in Horror

There is a lot to be said about the Box Office and horror.  The horror genre is always looked down upon despite the fact that it is a genre in which Studios spent a tenth of the budget of the more popular “A” films (or films with over bloated budgets and big stars) and they don’t need to make a lot at the Box Office to turn a profit.  The old saying is that if a film makes three times its production budget then it can be considered a hit but most critics and Box Office watchers forget this and continuously misread Box Office numbers to label low earning horror films as Box Office duds.  I only say this as January, to many Box Office watchers appears to be a bad month for horror films, but when you analyze the actual numbers January may not be as healthy and robust as last year (when Mama, A Haunted House, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, and Texas Chainsaw 3D dominated) but it wasn’t a complete disaster.  Last month saw the release of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Devil’s Due, and I, Frankenstein.  We will take them one at a time.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is a spin-off of the popular Paranormal Activity franchise (the fifth film so far) which has been a huge International money maker (similar to the Saw franchise before it).  The previous four previous films have an average Int’l Box Office of $180 million each with an average domestic take of $87 million each against an average production budget of $3.25 million (with the first film costing an estimated $15,000).  Now what does all of this really mean?  It means that on average each one of the films have made over 10 times their production budget making them some of the most profitable films in any franchise in the history of horror.  What does this mean for The Marked Ones?  The Marketed Ones had a production budget of $5 million and as of the beginning of February has grossed $32.3 million Domestic & $53.9 million Foreign (with a combined Int’l of $86.2 million).   So after 5 weeks of release Int’l it has made almost seven times its production budget domestic and over ten times foreign which is better than 90% of all the other “A” films released last year.  To keep everything in perspective last year’s highest grossing film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire grossed $859.6 million Int’l which is only six times its budget, so, if you are only by actual figures The Market Ones did better than Catching Fire.

Next up is Devil’s Due.  Now a lot of people will argue that Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones had a built in audience which is why it did the business it did,  Devil’s Due has no built in audience and no stars to help market it.  This film had a production budget of $7 million and has only been in release for two weeks so it still has some Box Office legs and is just now hitting the foreign markets.  It has thus far grossed $14.7 million domestic and $9.5 million foreign (with a combined Int’l of $24.2 million).  It has already made back twice its production budget domestically will most definitely reach that amount by the end of the month in foreign gross.  A comparable “A” film would be Man of Steel which grossed $668.04 million Int’l on a production budget of $225 million which means that it only made three times its production budget and is considered a hit.  If you look at it just by the numbers Devil’s Due made 3.5 times its production budget (going by the Int’l gross) which makes it more profitable than Man of Steel and it still has a Box Office life to do more business.

The final film in my analysis is I, Frankenstein which was released a week ago so it is just hitting the market.  Its production budget is a massive $65 million making it a “B” movie.  It has grossed $14.5 million domestic and $16.2 million foreign (for a combine Int’l of $30.7 million).  This is not a very promising outlook by the Box Office watchers point of view.  An “A” film to compare it to is last year’s Pacific Rim which had a production budget of $190 million and had a domestic gross of $101.8 million and foreign gross of $309.2 million (with a combined Int’l of $411 million).  Its first weekend gross was $90.4 million Int’l.  What this means is that Pacific Rim grossed 48% of its production budget on the first weekend whereas I, Frankenstein grossed 47% of its production budget putting them on par with one another. 

What does this all mean?

The horror genre is one that is given less money, no name stars (most of the time), a smaller marketing budget, and a release date that is usually dead for most films.  It should be noted that Man of Steel, Pacific Rim, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire were all released during peak Box Office months whereas January is consistently year-to-year one of the lower Box Office grossing months of the year.  Box Office watchers and critics forget that the horror genre is one of the most consistently profitable genres year-to-year because of the low production budgets therefore they don’t need to make blockbuster figures to turn a profit.  As you can see by the numbers all three of the January releases have outperformed some of the biggest films of last year.  To call these films duds puts a harmful light on these releases.  They may not be making the blockbuster numbers of “A” films but then again they shouldn’t have to and they shouldn’t need to.  Whether a film is considered profitable or not is related to how much it costs to produce and the combined production cost of all three films discussed here is less than any one of the three blockbusters mentioned.

So for those of you paying attention to the critics and Box Office watchers out there telling you that horror is doing horrible this year, take another look and consider the reality and not the perception that horror films should be doing blockbuster business.  Horror flourishes because its profitable and as long as it turns a profit we’ll continue to see a diverse array of films.

Note: All facts and figures were obtained from Box Office Mojo (www.boxofficemojo.com)

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