October has long been considered "horror month," with a flood of horror books, TV shows, DVDs and Blu-rays all timed for release during the scariest 31 days of the year. This past weekend was no exception at the box office, as no less than four horror movies competed for attention ... but surprise, surprise, all were left gasping for air.
'Let Me In' and 'Case 39' both opened wide on more than 2,000 screens, yet only drew about $5.3 million each, about half of what was expected. The under-publicized 'Chain Letter' showed up on 400 screens, making just $352 per screen for a total of $143,000, while the unrated 'Hatchet 2' managed to average $912 at each of its 68 screens, totaling $62,000. Looking back over the past seven weeks, 'Piranha 3D' underperformed somewhat ($24.8 million so far), while 'The Last Exorcism' ($40 million) did better and 'Devil' ($27.4 million) about the same. If horror movies are dying at the box office, what does that mean for the upcoming releases of 'Paranormal Activity 2' and 'Saw 3D'?
Opening weekend financial results say more about the marketing campaigns behind the movies than their perceived quality; it's all about the elusive "want to see" quality that's built up in the weeks leading up to the release. Dedicated horror fans tend to support most horror movies on the big screen, especially harder-edged, adult-oriented fare, so you'd expect them out in full force for 'Case 39,' even though it carried the unfortunate aroma of flop sweat after being shelved for more than two years. (The movie was much better than some advance reviews might lead you to believe.) So the failure there may have been more in the marketing to the broader, mainstream audience, which might not have been inclined to want to see Renee Zellwegger in a horror movie.
The core audience of horror fans may have felt they'd already seen 'Let Me In,' a remake of a Swedish film that came out in limited theatrical release just two years ago and has been widely available on DVD for months. Indeed, as well made as it is, the new version is essentially the same movie. Here the problem might have been on two fronts: horror fans reluctant to support another remake and mainstream audiences deciding against seeing a dark thriller about vampires that only mentions the "v-word" once and is hardly a romantic picture.
'Chain Letter' likely suffered from a limited promotional campaign and also from being released on the same weekend as three other horror movies, while 'Hatchet 2' appears to have appealed only to a sub-set of dedicated horror fans, the ones who enjoy uninhibited splatter.
Why are you staying away from horror movies? Do you think there are too many in theaters right now? What will convince you to go see a horror movie? Are you saving your money for 'Paranormal Activity 2' and/or 'Saw 3D'?