For Hollywood, Spooky Season Might Never End

By: James Flippin · November 14, 2022 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

A Winning Genre

By this point, social distancing protocols have been dropped across most of the globe. But as former moviegoers are becoming streamer-goers, the North America box office is still down 34% compared to the pre-pandemic period.

Movie theaters like AMC (AMC) have had a tough time luring consumers out of their homes and away from streaming services like Netflix (NFLX), Disney+ (DIS), or HBO Max (WBD).

However, in their chase of the streaming giants, it looks like Hollywood might have finally found a secret weapon worthy of a classic movie monster: horror films.

Killing the Box Office

Over the past year, horror films have succeeded again and again with films like Smile, The Black Phone, and Barbarian all doing incredibly well at the box office, particularly in comparison to their production budgets.

Smile notched an impressive $22.6 million opening weekend, which helped it immediately recoup its $17 million budget. The film went on to generate $18.5 million more during its second weekend.

Having multiple successful weekends like this is exceedingly rare in the industry. Even the biggest blockbuster movies typically experience a significant decline in sales after the opening weekend.

Smile went on to gross nearly $200 million globally in just one month. Not bad at all for a horror film with a modest budget.

Why Horror?

Horror is turning into a huge winner for a few reasons.

To start, the experience of being frightened in a theater is different than when alone at home — and can’t be recaptured on a tablet, phone, or television screen. What might be an isolated or even unpleasant experience streamed on a laptop in your room instead becomes collective and cathartic when shared in the comforting presence of other horror fans, and with a big bag of popcorn in your lap.

Additionally, horror movies are typically very low budget. From the studio’s perspective, producing horror movies can be a low-risk way to potentially earn a 20-30X return on their investment.

Although Halloween is technically over, 2022’s successful horror movies could transform the spooky season into a year-round event — for moviegoers and streaming services alike.

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