Horror movies have always existed in a peculiar niche in any film studio’s box office plans. While they rarely achieve the same monetary highs as other genres, they generally cost a fraction of what other films do to produce. This means that when a horror movie loses money, it actually loses very little, but when it’s a hit, it’s a massive financial windfall for the studio that produced it.
This is why many of history’s most profitable movies and longest-running franchises belong to the horror genre. Although its $175 million box office run pales compared to movies like Wonder Woman and Guardians of the Galaxy, compared to its $4.5 million budget, Get Out is easily the most profitable movie so far in 2017. The most profitable movie of all time, The Blair Witch Project, made back nearly 4,200 times its paltry $60,000 budget during its time in theaters.
It’s the same reason why there are ten sequels to the straight-to-video Puppet Master franchise, while series like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Golden Compass can’t seem to get their sequels off the ground. A $400,000 buy-in for a sure thing just makes more financial sense than a riskier – but potentially more rewarding – bet on a film that costs many times that number.
Leading into its opening weekend, it seems that the latest high-profile horror movie to hit theaters – a remake of Stephen King’s It miniseries – will be know different. Interest in – and, by extension, predictions for – the movie has surged ahead of its release. Initial predictions pegged It for a more-than-respectable $50 million opening weekend. Estimates are recently as last week grew that figure to $60 million. Now, days before its release, it is expected to make in excess of $60 million.
This is a staggering sum of money for anything short of the latest Summer blockbuster, but it is especially impressive considering the kind of movie that It is. Most horror movies – even the successful ones – don’t make that kind of money in their entire theatrical run. The demographic that they appeal to is just too small to draw in the kinds of crowds that those kinds of returns necessitate. And when you factor in its R rating – which further limits the number of people who can pay to see it – it is astounding that It can generate that level of interest among potential movie-goers.
Then again, it is a Stephen King adaptation. And while the quality of movies based on his novels are always suspect, his name is known among even those unversed in horror, and It is one of his most popular works. Owing to that alone, it was always going to make more money than the average foray into terror.
Even so, if these predictions are accurate, that would make its opening weekend three times larger than its nearest competition, even among King adaptations. 1408, which currently holds the title for the best King opening, earned $20 million in its opening weekend. Even hugely popular adaptations of King bestsellers don’t come close to this kind of money; Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, even helped along by a rampantly popular director and an A-list cast, made little more than half a million dollars in its first weekend.
If these numbers prove to be accurate come Monday, It will invariably become the author’s highest grossing adaptation to date. It’s opening weekend already puts it in spitting distance of Misery’s and 1408’s lifetime gross, and nearly halfway to The Green Mile: the current box office king in that regard. And given that It is only half the story – with a sequel covering the novel’s other events due out next year – this could prove to be a much-needed payday for New Line Cinema (and parent company Warner Bros).
And I think it’s safe to say, after this kind of success with one King adaptation, that director Andy Muschietti will have no problem convincing Hollywood to let him helm that Pet Semetary remake he has his heart on. With this $60 million proof-of-concept, he’ll be free to make any movie he pleases to.