Friday, January 6, 2017

Low-Budget Horror Movies in 2016: Box-Office Results

Which low-budget horror movies performed well at the box office in 2016, and which did not perform well?


(This is part 2 of a series of posts on the box office performance of horror movies in 2016. The first post is here.)

I wanted to look at the financial success of different horror movies in 2016, and I thought it would be interesting to look at movies with relatively low budgets versus movies with relatively high budgets. Of course, "low budget" means different things in different contexts. When you talk about movies with wide theatrical releases in the U.S., most of these movies have higher budgets than those that are released through other channels. On the other hand, horror movies generally have smaller budgets than movies of other genres that are released theatrically.

For 2016, I looked at 16 horror movies with fairly wide releases. Conveniently, eight of those movies had budgets under $10 million and 8 had budgets of $10 million or more. So that's where I separated "low" and "high" budgets: the $10 million mark.

The low budget movies, in order of release, are The Witch, The Darkness, Lights Out, Don't Breathe, Morgan, Blair Witch, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Incarnate.

The high budget movies are The Forest, The Boy, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Conjuring 2, The Shallows, The Purge: Election Year, and The Disappointments Room.

This post will look at the eight low-budget movies, while the next post will look at the high-budget movies.


Low-Budget Movies: Overview


I'm going to compare each of the movies with the average for all eight low-budget horror movies. The graph below shows that the average budget for these eight movies was $6.2 million, and on average they each grossed $31.8 million. Their opening weekends averaged $11.3 million.


(If you aren't interested in specific details about each individual movie, scroll down to the bottom of this post for a quick summary.)




The Witch


Budgeted at $3.5 million (well below the $6.2 million average of the eight movies discussed here), The Witch was released to 2,046 theaters on February 19, 2016 (in its second week, its theater count increased to 2,204). In its opening weekend, The Witch grossed $3.5 million, a little over half the average for the low-budget movies. In its entire U.S. theatrical run of four weeks, it grossed $22.9 million, about 72% of the average for these low-budget movies.


The graph below shows daily grosses of The Witch compared to the average for low-budget horror movies in 2016. While its opening was below the average, The Witch's second, third, and fourth weeks were close to the average.





The Darkness


Greg McLean's The Darkness had a budget of $4 million and was released to 1,755 U.S. theaters on May 13, 2016 (in its second week, it expanded slightly to 1,769 theaters). It grossed $5 million in its opening weekend, and its total gross was $10.8 million. (Despite costing a little more than The Witch, it ended its U.S. theatrical run with less than half of The Witch's gross.)


Looking at its daily performance, The Darkness was clearly an underperformer compared to the average low-budget horror movie released in 2016. On most days of its release, it made less than half the average for low-budget horror movies. Looking at per-theater grosses, The Darkness was also an underperformer, averaging only $496 per theater per day in its first week, compared, for example, to The Witch's $811 per theater per day.




Lights Out


Lights Out, one of the most profitable horror movies of 2016, was budgeted at $4.9 million. It was released to 2,818 U.S. theaters on July 22, 2016, expanding to 2,835 in its second week. Its opening weekend gross was $21.7 million and its total theatrical gross was $67.3 million.


The graph below shows daily grosses for Lights Out compared to the average for low-budget horror movies in 2016. Clearly, Lights Out was a massively strong performer in its first week, and it outperformed the average throughout its run.




Don't Breathe



Like Lights Out, Don't Breathe was another major low-budget success in 2016. Released to 3,051 theaters on August 26, 2016 (and expanding in its third week by 11% to 3,384 theaters), Fede Alvarez's movie had a budget of $9.9 million, about twice that of Lights Out. In its opening weekend in the U.S., Don't Breathe grossed $26.4 million, about 22% higher than Lights Out, which grossed $21.7 million in its opening weekend. Don't Breathe went on to gross $89.2 million in its theatrical run, about 33% higher than Lights Out's $67.3 million.


On a daily basis, Don't Breathe showed a pattern very similar to that of Lights Out, opening strong and outperforming the average for low-budget movies throughout its run.





Morgan


Luke Scott's Morgan, budgeted at $8 million, opened on September 2, 2016 in 2,020 theaters (two weeks later, it would be playing in only 99 theaters). In its opening weekend, it grossed only $2 million, and its entire U.S. theatrical run would bring in only $3.9 million. Based on its theatrical performance, Morgan lost more than $4 million, not including advertising and other costs.


Morgan's daily performance, shown in the graph below, was consistently far below the average for low-budget horror movies in 2016.





Blair Witch


Adam Wingard's Blair Witch revival opened on September 16, 2016 in 3,121 theaters. With a budget of $5 million, it grossed $9.6 million in its opening weekend and $20.8 million in its U.S. theatrical run. While not a massive hit on the level of Lights Out or Don't Breathe, Blair Witch was most likely a solid, profitable success Lionsgate Films, despite its reputation as a flop.


Looking at its daily grosses, Blair Witch's performance was close to the average for low-budget horror movies throughout its theatrical run. Its grosses were slightly below average from the first week, but it showed a solid second week.





Ouija: Origin of Evil


Mike Flanagan's Ouija: Origin of Evil was budgeted at $9 million. It was released on October 21, 2016 to 3,167 theaters, grossing $14.1 million in its first weekend and $35 million in its U.S. theatrical run. Compared to other lower-budget horror movies released in 2016, its budget was 45% higher than the average budget, and it grossed about 10% higher than the average gross.


Looking at its daily performance, Ouija: Origin of Evil opened somewhat more strongly than the average low-budget horror movie in 2016, but after opening, its box office pattern closely matched the average of the eight movies discussed here.





Incarnate


Incarnate, released on December 2, 2016 to 1,737 theaters, was budgeted at $5 million. It grossed $2.5 million in its opening weekend and a total of $4.8 million in its four-week U.S. theatrical run.


Daily data for Incarnate show a trend similar to that for Morgan, with both movies bringing in about $1 million per day on the first weekend compared to about $4.5 million per day for all eight movies discussed here. Incarnate played in fewer theaters than Morgan and grossed slightly more during its theatrical run, but both movies grossed well below the average low-budget horror movie in 2016.





Low-Budget Horror Movies: Summary


Of the eight low-budget horror movies discussed here, six grossed millions more than their budgets during their U.S. theatrical runs. Don't Breathe and Lights Out were massively successful, each grossing more than $60 million above their budgets. Ouija: Origin of Evil, The Witch, and Blair Witch grossed more than $15 million above their budgets. The Darkness, while not highly successful, grossed almost $7 million above its budget.

Two low-budget, theatrically released horror movies grossed less than their budgets: Incarnate and Morgan. While neither film was successful, Morgan was particularly unsuccessful, grossing only $3.9 million on a budget of $8 million.


The next post in this series will look at horror movies with budgets of $10 million or above. This high-budget group includes the horror movie grossing the most in 2016, as well as the horror movie losing the most money in 2016.


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