Horrible Horror Movies and Why They Keep Getting Made

The gothic horror movie Winchester was released last Friday and finished the weekend third at the US Box Office with $9,307,626 in total ticket receipts. According to Box Office Mojo the opening night audience was 58% female and 64% were over the age of 25. It was considered to be a successful opening weekend.

The gothic horror movie Winchester was released last Friday and finished the weekend third at the US Box Office with $9,307,626 in total ticket receipts. According to Box Office Mojo the opening night audience was 58% female and 64% were over the age of 25. It was considered to be a successful opening weekend.

Here’s the thing, though. Most people who’ve seen the movie didn’t “really like” it. Rotten Tomatoes gives the movie a 12% Rotten rating. Metacritic has given it a score of 28%. Despite these poor reviews from critics, people went to see the movie anyway and audiences didn’t like it either. The average IMDB rating for the movie is 5.3. Only 36.3% of IMDB voters gave it a “really like” rating of seven or higher. So, word of mouth is bad and the critic reviews people are reading are almost universally bad and still they keep showing up at the theater. On Monday, Winchester still finished third at the box office.

And, it’s not just Winchester. In my objective data base, which now includes the top 150 box office movies each year from the years 1992 to 2001, there is evidence that most horror movies are bad. From 1992 to 2001, horror movies have an average IMDB rating of 5.8 and are 40% Fresh (or Rotten) on Rotten Tomatoes. All other movies for the same time frame have an average IMDB rating of 6.3 and are 53% Fresh (less Rotten). Generally speaking, as a genre, horror movies are below average in quality.

And yet, Hollywood still keeps rolling out horror movies year after year. Why? These movies are reliable money makers. During the 10 years of my study, horror movie business performance compares very favorably to other movies.

Avg Domestic Gross per Movie Avg Production Budget per Movie Net After Budget per Movie
Horror Movies  $  44,973,410  $  39,938,864  $   5,034,547
All Movies  $  38,935,822  $  46,294,593  $ (7,358,771)

While the industry as a whole doesn’t turn a profit until they take in video sales and licensing fees after movies end their box office run, horror movies turn a profit, on average, before the movies end their box office run. The average horror movie brings in more box office revenue with lower production costs than the typical movie in other genres. They are the perfect movies for those months that make up the non-blockbuster, non-awards seasons. They represent a low risk, moderate reward option for these down months of the box office year. There is something irrational about the audience draw for these horrible movies. There is something about the genre that encourages audiences to overlook the below average quality of the movies. They know it’s bad and they don’t care.

If you’re like me, quality matters and it takes a quality horror movie like Get Out to be a “really like” movie. With the information that is available to us today, there is no excuse for shelling out hard earned cash at the Cineplex for horrible movies like Winchester. Hold out for quality. A reliable profit stream for bad movies encourages them to keep making bad movies. We need more Get Out‘s and a lot fewer Winchester‘s. Tell them that horrible just doesn’t cut it, even for horror.

 

In February, Hope for the Unexpected

Unless you are still catching up with the Oscar nominated movies that you haven’t seen, February can be a tricky month for finding “really like” movies at the theaters. The winter months of January, February, and March don’t lure many moviegoers to the cinema. The average domestic box office gross for a movie widely released in February is a little over $28 million. For the entire year the average gross for a typical movie is in excess of $38 million. As a result, movie producers don’t release many movies that they’ve invested heavily in. You can see this in the size of the production budgets for February releases. The average February movie has a production budget of around $36 million compared to an average for the year of around $46 million. So should we just stay home and watch “really like” movies available on our streaming services? That’s actually not a bad strategy. I’m kidding! Well maybe a little bit

Unless you are still catching up with the Oscar nominated movies that you haven’t seen, February can be a tricky month for finding “really like” movies at the theaters. The winter months of January, February, and March don’t lure many moviegoers to the cinema. The average domestic box office gross for a movie widely released in February is a little over $28 million. For the entire year the average gross for a typical movie is in excess of $38 million. As a result, movie producers don’t release many movies that they’ve invested heavily in during the month of February. You can see this in the size of the production budgets for February releases. The average February movie has a production budget of around $36 million compared to an average for the year of around $46 million. So should we just stay home and watch “really like” movies available on our streaming services? That’s actually not a bad strategy. I’m kidding! Well maybe a little bit.

Seriously though, February is a tricky month but it’s not hopeless. Movie producers are skilled at finding a strategy that works at different times of year and sticking with it. For example in recent years, February has proven to be a good month to successfully kick off franchises for lesser known comic book characters like Deadpool and  Kingsman: The Secret Service. This year Marvel is kicking off the new franchise Black Panther in February. It premiered in Los Angeles on January 29th and opens overseas on February 13th before opening widely in the United States on February 16th. The early IMDB score is a promising 7.5. We won’t know if that rating is holding up until we get closer to the US opening. Stay tuned.

Many Oscar nominated movies for Best Foreign Language film weren’t released in the United States until the February after their overseas release to see if they could transform Oscar buzz into US Box Office success. The foreign classic Life is Beautiful was released in the United States in February. This year it is A Fantastic Woman, which opens in the US tomorrow, that is getting the buzz. The good thing about this foreign slice of February releases is that they already have a significant body of data from their prior year release overseas. A Fantastic Woman is Certified Fresh 87% on Rotten Tomatoes, has a Metacritic score of 90, and an IMDB average rating of 7.5.

If you are looking for an Oscar caliber movie in February, the odds are against you. Silence of the Lambs is the only movie released for the first time in February (not a prior year holdover) to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. If Get Out wins Best Picture this year it will become the second February release to do so. The one thing that both movies have in common is that they both had modest production budgets. Silence of the Lambs had a budget of $19 million and Get Out had a budget of $4.5 million. The other thing that they have in common is that they are both from the Horror/Thriller genre. The third thing they have in common was that their success was unexpected. I don’t see any movie on the February release schedule that I would expect to be this year’s Get Out, which, I guess, would make the emergence of such a movie, well, unexpected.