Thursday, March 9, 2017

Scary Numbers: Blumhouse's String of Hit Horror Movies

Starting with Paranormal Activity in 2009, Blumhouse Productions has produced a string of remarkably successful horror movies, averaging almost four widely released theatrical horror movies per year between 2011 and 2016. Between 2009 and March, 2017, the company produced 27 horror movies with wide theatrical releases in the U.S. for a combined budget of $139 million dollars (average budget $5.1 million). These movies have grossed a total of $1.34 billion domestically and $2.49 billion worldwide. Looking only at U.S. theatrical grosses, these 27 movies have taken in 9.68x their production budgets. Looking at worldwide grosses, they have taken in 17.9x their budgets.

The chart below summarizes budget and U.S. theatrical gross for these 27 movies (I’m only including movies released to at least 1,000 theaters in the U.S.). Of all these movies, only Incarnate (2016) grossed less in the U.S. than its production budget. Only a handful of other films—The Green Inferno (2015), Sinister 2 (2015), Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015), and The Darkness (2016)—grossed less than three times their budgets. The 22 other movies on the list all grossed more than three times their budgets just in the U.S.

What about outside the U.S.? The chart below shows U.S. and international grosses, and it highlights the notable fact that many Blumhouse productions gross more internationally than in the U.S. Of the 27 movies in the list, seven generated more box office receipts outside the U.S. than inside the U.S. This is the case for four of the six Paranormal Activity movies. It is also the case for Ouija (2014), a $51 million hit in the U.S. that grossed $53 million outside the U.S. Its sequel, Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) grossed $35 million in the U.S. and $47 million outside the U.S.

Blumhouse has produced three series with three or more entries: the Paranormal Activity, The Purge, and Insidious franchises. The chart below shows their budgets and grosses.

The patterns are interesting. The first three Paranormal Activity movies were massively successfully, each grossing nearly $200 million worldwide on budgets ranging from $15,000 (obviously an outlier) to $5 million. The last three movies, however, produced diminishing returns. In the U.S., each of the last three grossed roughly half its predecessor: U.S. grosses dropped from $54 million for the fourth entry to $33 million for the fifth entry to $18 million for the (more expensive) sixth entry. These movies were more successful outside the U.S., but overall grosses show dramatically diminishing returns.

The Purge franchise, on the other hand, shows a pattern of increasing returns both domestically and worldwide. Each Purge movie has been more successful than the previous one, justifying the increasing budgets. It will be interesting to see if this franchise follows Paranormal Activity with entries after part three showing declining performance.

The Insidious franchise shows a different pattern, with the second movie performing best and the third movie dropping 30% worldwide (38% domestically). In this case, doubling the budget between parts two and three was not justified by the decreasing box office, though all three movies were likely among Blumhouse's most profitable.

In 2017, at least as of March, horror movies not produced by Blumhouse have generally been financially unsuccessful. Outside of The Bye Bye Man (which grossed over $22 million domestically on a $7.54 million budget) and Rings (which has grossed over $27 million domestically on a $25 million budget), no other horror or horror/action movie (e.g., Underworld: Blood Wars and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter) has grossed more than its budget. If not for the two highly successful Blumhouse releases in early 2017, theatrical horror would not be in good shape.

(This is part of a series of posts looking at the box office performance of horror movies. I look at theatrical grosses not as a measure of the quality of the movies, of course, but as an indicator of how successful horror movies are perceived. If horror movies are financially successful, more will be produced, which is likely better for the genre as a whole. This analysis ignores distribution costs on the expenditure side, as well as grosses from home video, video on demand, etc. on the revenue side. See also here and here for summaries of 2016 horror box office.)