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26. INTERVALS OF HORROR

July 25, 2013

Here is a wrong statement: “If there weren’t any horror movies released recently, your horror flick will do better”. In the past few months we have witnessed so many horror movies doing very well: Mama, Evil Dead (remake), Texas Chainsaw 3D, Paranormal Activity 4, Sinister and others. This genre was never intended to make hundreds of millions, but since it is by far the cheapest to produce – it has become a gold mine for anyone who gets it right.

The opening statement here is wrong, even though it feels very intuitive: if I got my dose of nightmares to last me a couple of months, why would I need to see another horror movie any sooner than that? Well, it turns out that while this logic may seem reasonable to a scaredy-pants such as myself, it does not hold for horror lovers.

Here is a plot of all the movies released between 1997 and July 2013 that were categorized by boxofficemojo.com as “horror” of different kinds. I narrowed it down to those that had a wide release (>2000 screens):

Lifetime Domestic Grosses vs. Interval from Previous Horror Release

R-squared = 0.02. That’s a pretty much non-existent correlation. A similar picture can be seen for opening weekend grosses:

Opening Weekend Domestic Grosses vs. Interval from Previous Horror Release

What does this mean?

It means one of two things, or both: 1. Horror film audiences don’t need a hibernation period to digest the harsh scenes from one movie before they are ready for the next; 2. Marketing, as usual, is the determining factor of a horror movie’s success, regardless of the genre-similarity of competing brands (a conclusion I keep reaching on this blog).

I’ve heard someone say that there is a theory running around Hollywood, according to which a horror movie will make more money if it is released more than 8 weeks after the previous horror release. On average – that may be true ($67M vs. $61M for all movies, which is a roughly 10% gain), but the variance is so big that it makes the whole statement non significant.

In a future post, I will take a look at other genres, but horror is such a well-defined one, that I had to go for the low hanging fruit first. So if you are an exec, sweating over a release schedule decision for your horror flick – take it easy. I would pay more attention to what other genres are doing on your potential opening week (see the previous post on that surprising matter) than what your fellow horrorists have been up to recently. It just doesn’t matter. Oh – and don’t forget to market the living daylights out of it, of course.

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** All raw nominal grosses, release dates, theater counts and genre classifications are from boxofficemojo.com

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