As Stephen King’s IT continues to break records, another horror film rises to the #1 slot this weekend.
Happy Death Day made back five-times its budget in its opening weekend with a reported $26.5 million haul. It managed to topple the brilliant but struggling Bladerunner 2049 which hasn’t managed to find itself in the black despite a brilliant script, stellar cast, and amazing special effects.
Despite the success of Wonder Woman, I would hazard a guess that people are starting to tire of superhero films. I won’t go so far as to say that superhero films are dying, but it’s clear that some big endeavors such as Suicide Squad and 2015’s Fantastic Four prove that known characters and big budgets do not mean stellar ticket sales.
Hard sci-fi is becoming increasingly hard to sell (see Bladerunner 2049 and then look at the numbers–yikes!) While Arrival did well, it’s worth noting that the film had a relatively modest budget of $47 million as opposed to Bladerunner‘s $150 million. Both films are deeply thought-provoking, yet it takes roughly 2.25 times the initial budget in ticket sales for a film to truly break even. (Ticket sales are halved with the theater and the additional 25% covers advertising.)
Horror, on the other hand, is fairly easy to make. Horror budgets (save in the case of horror/sci-fi cross-overs such as Prometheus and its sequel) tend to be smaller than either hard SF or superhero flicks because horror normally isn’t heavy on the CGI. So when a film like IT costs $35 million to make and manages to snag $617 million in its first few weeks (roughly 18 times the initial budget) it’s easy for movie studios to get excited about horror.
Yet movies that cross horror and fantasy have failed to perform well. The disastrous remake of The Mummy comes to mind. And while IT managed to drop jaws, another Stephen King adaptation, The Dark Tower, failed to live up to the hype.
We are witnessing the return of horror. Capes, lasers, and wands will need to take a backseat. Horror is capable of producing better returns at the box-office and the same old same old won’t cut it anymore. Keep your eyes on the numbers, folks–the darkness is winning.