Monday, December 28, 2009

The 2009 Horror Box Office

There was an incredibly strong presence of horror in theaters this year, in fact, there was almost too many at one point. Late in July, Orphan and The Collector came out, followed by The Perfect Getaway in the beginning of August, then, on the same exact day, The Final Destination and Halloween 2 (or H2 if you're hip to be square) went head-to-head in a battle to end all battles (okay, maybe not end all)! By time we got to September, with even more films like Sorority Row, Pandorum, Whiteout, and Jennifer's Body, the horror market was flooded and nobody gave a shit anymore. I try and see as many horror films as I can theatrically, as long as their horror films that are appealing and promising, but there's no way you can be successful in a genre with such an overkill. We can't afford it! At least I can't and if you can, then good on ya...and give me some loot sucka!

Still, even with that said, horror also had a decent presence at the box office this year too and while we're not talking top of the box office numbers, we are looking at how much money some of these films brought in. A movie can pull in $40 million and look like a near flop, but if the budget is only $15 to $20 million, well, you can call that a minor success. This is that case with most of the horror genre as is the case with many of the releases I am going over here today. These are the movies that made some bank, whether it be a whole lot, or just enough to keep some dignity and presence. *Note all these figures are time sensitive and as updated as I freaking feel like, okay?! Oh, and they're domestic. Oh-oh, and fahkin Avatar makes all this just that much more difficult*

I'd be iniquitous if I didn't start at one of the highest grossing films of the year...and since I have never seen any of these films, I won't waste anytime taking unfair shots at them, but they are a part of the horror genre (maybe not yours or mine), whether some would like to admit it or not. The 4th highest grossing horror film of '09 was The Twilight Saga: New Moon with $$280,924,000 and still going. No real surprise and with figures like that, no need to even bother comparing them to the budget - these films make bank and bubblegum that you can buy at FYE.

Now while New Moon was the highest grossing horror release of the year, the most successful film of the year, period, was Paranormal Activity, which came in at number 27 with a whopping $107,735,000. Compare that number to a budget of $15 thousand and you have the second coming of Blair Witch. This would be the best thing for horror in many ways and the worst thing too. These numbers really show what can be done with some drive and passion, but the imitations are sure to come, with plenty of Hollywood bullery (is that a word?) putting in their two unnecessary cents. However, Paranormal Activity being more than a few years old is from the Blair Witch influence if you ask me, as well as Cloverfield, [REC], and all the other handy cam films of late, so I think Blair Witch's shadow is long looming and maybe imitation isn't such a bad thing after all.

In what was a bit of a surprise, Zombieland landed at the number 38 spot with $75,590,286. Compared to a $23.6 million dollar budget, the film was very successful, in a time when most people are so tired of Zombie films - especially ones going the comedic route. I liked the film and am very happy that it did well - in fact, it did well enough that a sequel is already in the works. Zombieland barely nudged out the 39th most highest grossing film of the year, which was Coraline and its gross of $75,286,229. Not really a horror movie you say? Well, it isn't, but it comes pretty darned close and Coraline was one of the darkest children's animation films I have seen in quite some time. Unfortunately, the numbers for the film aren't so good when compared to its $60 million dollar budget, but it did okay at least.

The Final Destination flew in and landed at number 46 with $66,477,700 and with a budget of $40 million; this is a franchise that has really showed up with every release. What's more impressive, is this came out directly against Zombie's H2 and completely slaughtered it at the box office, which if you've seen H2, it shouldn't be a surprise. At 49, every ones favorite remake, Friday the 13th slashed it's way in with $65,002,019 against a $19 million dollar budget. More than enough to reignite the franchise, which received very mixed reviews from horror fans. I personally liked it...enough.

All right, I'm gonna speed this up - things are getting repetitive and you probably aren't even reading anymore...and if you aren't, then I'm taking you off my booty call list. Maybe. Alrighty, The Haunting in Connecticut with $55,389,516 came in at 55 overall, but no clue what the budget was since it's not available anywhere. Strange?! A nice surprise was My Bloody Valentine 3-D doing $51,545,952 to its budget of $15 million and taking the 59 spot. Even with a hottie swap, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans took the 63rd place with an okay $45,802,315 compared to $35 mil budget. While The Unborn only did decent numbers wise with $42,670,410, in comparison to its $16 million budget, it actually did pretty darned good and took the 66th spot.

And finally, capping things off at the lower end of success, the 67 and 69 (Dude!) spots were filled by fan favorites Drag Me to Hell with $42,100,625 against a $30 million budget and Orphan with $41,596,251. No budget available for Orphan either, but I cannot imagine it costing more than $30 million. Considering that Drag Me to Hell was out of theaters faster than you can say, "This isn't Spider Man" it actually did quite well. Imagine if it had just a few more weeks... Orphan, on the other hand, was near death its entire run, but had a bit of staying power with positive word of mouth and steady numbers, which were just enough to keep it afloat.

So, there you have it, the year in horror from a theatrical standpoint. By the numbers there are seven original films, three sequels, and only two remakes in this batch, so that shows some progress towards seeing some original genre releases in theaters. I personally saw six of these films and liked all six, so I am batting a 1000 in that department and that is a testament that all hope will never be lost, no matter how powerful the fad. Hopefully 2010 will bring even better horror films for us to go and spend way too much money on and right off the bat we are getting Case 39 on January 1st, followed by Daybreakers on the 8th and Legion on the 22nd (though I doubt that will go wide, unlike your mom). Not a bad way to start the New Year at all. Of course, I would love to hear your take on the 2009 year in horror and whether or not you were satisfied by what was to be seen in theaters. That is if you read this far - if you did, then thank you for being a freind!


  1. I am not only a friend, I am also a proud maintainer of my place on your booty call list.

    Bummed to see, in hindsight, that Orphan ended up with such low numbers, but I think it made its little stamp on the year in other ways. I won't get into why I hate the F13 remake gain, but I truly did hate the F13 remake. And claps to The Final Destination for succeeding, as THAT'S how you continue a franchise without being terrible.

    You didn't list Saw VI, which I'm fairly curious about. It was certainly a box office disappointment, but I believe it still made its money since the budget remains so low. It's kind of a shame: V was awful but made its money, while VI was actually fairly good but marred by the bad impression left by V. Somehow Lions Gate has since turned the reins for Part VII over to the folks behind V (which, if they took 30 seconds to consider the logic of filmgoing, they'd realize what a stupid move that is). Grr. In 3D! Meh.

  2. Way to recap the year in B.O. tallies, Matt! Overall, it was a really strong year for horror. As Tony Timpone noted in his latest Fango editorial, while horror used to be a genre that would ebb and flow in popularity, it's pretty much always a boom period now. I can't remember a time in the last fourteen years or so - since Scream revived the genre in '96 - that horror wasn't big. Sure, there might be a few flops here and there - it might even be a few months between hits - but nothing like in the late '80s and early '90s when it seemed possible that horror could fade out altogether.

  3. Great write-up, Matt. Though 'Paranormal', as you know, was made for $15,000, not $15 million!

  4. You said iniquitous.

    I agree with Jeff. And this year was a great sign of things to come for horror in the mainstream. I think it was definitely one of the most quality years in terms of releases in recent memory (Twilight and a hand ful of others, notwithstanding). And I hope that Paranormal Activity gives indie horror a shot in the arm and causes people to seek out young filmmakers that are trying to make their own mark on the genre.

    Can't wait until 2010!

  5. Emily: Saw VI did make some bank in comparison to its meager budget, but I didn't want to get into anything that was considered a complete flop. I mostly wanted to cover the films that did respectively and once I got to H2, I knew I need not go any further since that was such a disaster. Saw was even lower than H2 this year, which was a bit of a surprise.

    Even Orphan and Drag Me to Hell were on the cusp of making it, but they did get into the $40 million territory at least. It's too bad that Drag Me to Hell didn't do better, but I think it will have a long successful life on DVD, as will be the case with at least there's still that.

    3D is more than played out and I doubt it can save franchises like studios seem to think. However, I am curious to see what happens money wise with a 3D Saw film...maybe it just depends on what else is out at the time.

    Jeff: I remember back in the day with all the "Horror's dead" talk and that is a crazy thought to me now, but seemed like it could've happened back then. Though, at that time there was a lot more going against the genre with the MPAA and backlash from every religious/parental group over horror movies.

    I think there is a little less shame in making horror films now, than there was back then. I guess all it takes is one movie to bring everything back up to speed once in a while and that seems to happen pretty often with the Screams and Blair Witches of the world.

  6. Marty: Thanks and whoops! I typed million so many times, I think it carried over! Good looking out!

    Pot: I know! I laughed at it when I read it again...trying to sound like I'm smart and shit!

    It really was a great year and even greater in the direct to DVD market which produced so many amazing horror films, I dare not take on the daunting task of mentioning them all.

    It's nice to see some original horror making a dent at the box office and while I do not have a dislike for remakes per say, it's great to have them not be the only thing released this year. A lot of chances were taken and kudos to whomever took those chances.

    Now if as many horror fans can get their butts in sets for more "original" horror flicks next year and the future of cinematic horror can really excel!

  7. I cant believe that at year close we only saw two theatrical remakes! Things really do seem to be evening out to equilibrium again, very exciting times. We will have to see if The Wolf Man and the other 2010 offerings are going to be any better than the remakes of the last decade.

  8. D Money: You heard me!

    Carl: The Wolf Man looks promising and I hope it lives up to what the trailers have shown. I'm sure we'll see a ton more of the same, but hopefully we get a couple of surprises mixed in there too.

    I would LOVE to see more foreign films get theatrical love and that is where the mark is missed the most. With the success of past films like Pan's Labyrinth and The Orphanage, there would seem to be some successful room for these types of movies too. One can dream!

  9. While your (entire!) post is still fresh in my head, a few things...

    A handful of these films actually did look pretty decent. I just didn't give myself the opportunity to go see them. Like Orphan and Drag Me To Hell. Those looked cool! All the others (besides Paranormal Activity... add that to my To Watch list) looked pretty boo. How many freakin' Final Destinations does there need to be?! And can Rob Zombie pleased be punk'd for bastardizing one of the greatest things about horror, please?! I give him credit for his original stuff and that's all I'll ever do!

    You know how I feel about Jennifer's Body. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to take that to the classroom. Zombieland was a lot of fun in the theatres. Can't wait to see the sequel there too!

    Overall, this year in horror film has been good to me in regards to writing the fantastic blogs like yours. I need to resolve to do more damn writing myself.

    Gonna go netflix a bunch of your shout outs now.

    Hey... any news on House of the Devil?

  10. I have heard a ton of great things about House of the Devil, Ashlee...the one complaint is that it moves a little slow, but overall, pepes seem to love it. I still haven't seen it and I highly anticipate doing so hopefully soon!

    I definitely recommend Orphan, Drag Me to Hell, and Paranormal Activity and I loved Zombieland too. I love the Final Destination movies, but they are just mindless fun after the first one...they're great for fun kills and exciting gore, not much else.

    I agree with you about Zombie, though I thought the first Halloween was "okay," it was nothing near what was done with the original, which is my favorite all time horror film. Zombie is extremely talented, but man, does he know how to fuck up a story and H2 was a total mess. I hope he sticks to original shit from here on out.

    Also, I agree that you need to post more, but I thank you very much for visiting here as often as you do with your always great feedback! Hope you have a great new year!

  11. This really was a big year for horror, box office-wise, wasn't it?? And I too was slightly pleased to see FD--which was still pretty lame--beat out the god-awful H2 in their little head-to-head battle...

  12. It really was a great year and even though not all of them did well, there was so much to choose from this year as far as horror releases. It's nice to have the option to pick the horror movie you want to see, but spreading out the horror wealth would be beneficial to all involved. I, unfortunately, picked H2 over FD due to scheduling conflicts...once again, I say unfortunately!

  13. Well I'm glad I'm not the only one. Due to my travel schedule, I had the opportunity to see one movie during that time and I chose H2 over TFD. Biggest mistake of the year in hindsight, but I thought it was a no-brainer after enjoying the original. At least it comes out on DVD next month so I can right that wrong.

  14. I was pretty excited to see a Final Destination film in 3D since the series kinda fits in well with the campiness of 3D. If I remember correctly, we had tickets to see TFD, but when we went to the theater after some food and drinks, we realized they were for the 2D version - so we just said fuck it and watched H2 instead because the next 3D showing was not for another hour. Should have just went and had more drinks and came back after the hour passed!

  15. Eh, I loved The Final Destination, but i don't think they figured out how to do anything special with the 3D. I don't regret seeing it for the extra bucks (especially since I snuck into H2 after anyway...ugh), but unlike My Bloody Valentine, the 3D of TFD was kind of wasted and unnecessary.

  16. Hmmm..I wonder if they filmed TFD with 3D on the mind or not. You can tell when a movie is shot for 3D by how good it is. Like Coraline had it added to the film and it looked "okay," but not mind blowing. Something like Beowulf, on the ohter hand, was 3D from the beginning and you can tell when you see it 'cause it looks so fantastic.

    The whole thing is beyond played out and it is really getting on my nerves to be honest. I don't need it...once in a while is fine, but it isn't necessary in every film that comes out. However, I can't wait for Piranha 3D!

  17. Yeah, 3D will always be the Muppet Theater attraction at MGM or the Terminator show at Universal Studios. Just a gimmick that's so artificial, it never really feels organic. I'm forcing myself to see Avatar just to judge if 3D will ever get through to me.


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