A lifelike doll programmed to be a child’s best companion and a parent’s best ally goes murderous in Universal Studios and Blumhouse’s “M3GAN.”
A fashionable, murderous doll brings in a lot of money at the box office.
“M3gan”, the latest release of the Universal The collaboration between the studios and Blumhouse will gross more than $100 million worldwide. It’s the latest in a string of lucrative theatrical releases for the horror genre.
While Hollywood’s big-budget blockbusters usually get the most attention, the consistently strong performance of scary movies in theaters is good news for the cinema industry.
The pandemic has fundamentally changed how and where consumers view entertainment. Certainly, people have returned to cinemas, but not at the same volume as before the pandemic. In addition, fewer theatrical releases have resulted in lower box offices overall over the last year. The domestic box office hit $7.5 billion in 2022, up from $4.58 billion in 2021 but down around 34% from 2019.
Films like “M3gan” together increase box office success. In 2022, the horror genre accounted for approximately $700 million in domestic ticket sales, according to data from Comscore. Though that number is down from pre-pandemic levels, it suggests continued demand for spooky entertainment as the theater business recovers.
Frightening but good
Outstanding and Universal were the biggest providers of horror content last year. Paramount’s “Smile” has sold $105 million in tickets domestically and $217 million worldwide. The latest installment in the Scream series grossed $81 million in the US and Canada and $137 million worldwide.
Universal’s “Nope” grossed $123 million domestically and $171 million worldwide, while “The Black Phone” grossed $90 million in the US and $160 million worldwide. The studio also released “Halloween Ends,” which resulted in $64 million in domestic ticket sales and $104 million worldwide, despite hitting streaming service Peacock on the same day.
Ethan Hawke stars in Blumhouse and Universal’s The Black Phone.
Additionally, Disney‘s Searchlight Pictures released The Menu, which grossed $38 million domestically and $70 million worldwide.
Notably, Disney and Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which contains horror elements, was not included in the count. The film grossed $411 million in the United States and Canada and nearly $1 billion worldwide during its run.
“We’re in the midst of a new golden age of horror,” said Shawn Robbins, principal analyst at BoxOffice.com. “It’s a genre that has ebbed and flowed over the past few decades, but has always evolved, maintained its commercial appeal and helped introduce new filmmakers to the world.”
Here are some horror genre titles to expect in 2023:
- Universal’s “Knock at the Cabin” – February 3
- Paramount’s “Scream VI” – March 10th
- Sony’s Insidious: Chapter 5 – July 7th
- Warner Brothers’ “The Nun 2” – September 8th
- Neon’s “Cuckoo” – September 29th
- Universal’s The Exorcist – Oct 13
- Lionsgate’s “Saw X” – Oct 27
Blumhouse, a producer of “M3gan,” has revolutionized the horror genre over the past decade, turning small-budget films into huge box-offices. The studio was responsible for the profitable and popular Paranormal Activity films, as well as the Oscar-winning Get Out.
Paranormal Activity, released in 2009, had a budget of just $15,000 and grossed more than $107 million in the US and nearly $200 million worldwide
Following this model, “M3gan” was made for just $12 million and is on the way to over $100 million. Universal and Blumhouse have already given the green light for a sequel to be released in 2025.
Still from Universal and Blumhouse’s “M3GAN”.
Last year, most widely distributed horror films had budgets between $16 million and $35 million. The only standout was Get Out director Jordan Peele’s Nope, which had a $68 million production budget. Smaller budget films don’t need to generate blockbuster-sized ticket sales to make a profit. This economy also helps make horror movies one of the most enduring genres of all time.
Consider Skinamarink, an experimental horror film from Canada that cost $15,000 to make and grossed more than $1 million at the box office.
“At the heart of its sustainability has been a generational shift in young audiences that propels many of these films at the box office, a constant pre-pandemic that picks up right where it left off when cinema attendance rallied post-pandemic,” Robbins said.
Unlike fans of comic book movies, who can be easily put off by an unfaithful adaptation of their favorite character, horror fans don’t seem to mind if the film doesn’t quite live up to the times. As long as the movie had some good scares and was viewed as a fun experience, they’ll be back for the next installment.
Additionally, the quality of the horror genre has improved greatly over the past two decades, thanks in large part to support from indie companies like A24 and Neon, and distribution to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Peacock.
“A systematic, incremental increase in the quality of horror films, a genre once considered the Smash and Grab, Take the Money and Run, Open on Friday, Close on Sunday genre, has now begun with the creative vision of amazing production companies and brilliant filmmakers , have earned the respect of critics and audiences alike,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.
For example, M3gan currently has a 95 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
“The genre and its audience are invaluable to the industry ecosphere, and the promising 2023 release slate seems to help maintain that status quo,” said Robbins.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal is affiliated with Blumhouse and owns Rotten Tomatoes.