Horror Movies Are Secretly Saving Hollywood’s Major Film Studios

What do four of the six highest grossing major film studios of 2016 have in common? They each released a horror film that made enough money to compensate for another big budget box office flop on their roster.

Hollywood accounting is “creative” to say the least, but the general rule of thumb is that a tentpole film needs to earn two times its estimated budget worldwide in order to outweigh production and marketing expenses and begin to make money.

According to Box Office Mojo, Sony’s The Magnificent Seven earned approximately $160.4 million on an estimated budget of $90 million. Ghostbusters (2016) earned approximately $229 million on an estimated budget of $144 million. 

It’s a good thing Sony had the critically acclaimed Don’t Breathe in its stable, which soaked up approximately $155.6 million on a budget of just $9.9 million! While it’s not enough to erase those blunders, it’s certainly enough to help Sony keep the lights on while it decides whether to sell its movie and television division. 

The trend continued for Paramount, which saw weak returns on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, earned $94 million worldwide on Ben-Hur (2016) after a budget of $100 million, and earned just $55.9 million worldwide on Zoolander 2, with a budget of approximately $50 million. 

Fortunately for Paramount, it also released 10 Cloverfield Lane, a movie that didn’t cost much to make, but ended up earning the studio approximately $108 million worldwide on an estimated budget of only $15 million.

While Warner Bros. Pictures didn’t suffer as many major box office bombs as their peers, they could have done better on films like The Legend of Tarzan, which earned $356.7 million on a budget of $180 million, and The Nice Guys, which earned just $36.2 million on an estimated budget of $50 million.

Warner Bros. had two successful horror films in 2016 which returned some of this lost cash to the studio. The Conjuring 2 earned the studio about $320.2 million worldwide on a budget of $40 million, and Lights Out made the studio approximately $148.9 million worldwide on a minuscule budget of $4.9 million!

Universal had the most financially responsible year of these four studios, as all of its top 10 films broke even or earned more than double their budget at the worldwide box office. However, Universal’s greatest earning film in comparison to its budget was The Purge: Election Year, which made about $118.6 million on a tiny budget of $10 million. 

It’s obvious that these horror films are making up for the piles of cash that the studios are losing on their big budget failures. They’re cheap to make, they develop massive fan followings, and they often attract talented actors and actresses who are making their way up the food chain (it’s not uncommon for a major new face in Hollywood to have starred in a horror film just before making it big).

Why didn’t the other two major studios also experience this kind of horror-ific success? Well, 20th Century Fox tried to with Morgan, but it only broke even on its $8 million budget. You see, in order for this phenomenon to occur, the horror film usually has to be good, be an established franchise, or create positive buzz and word of mouth around the time of its release. Morgan did none of these things.

Holding an impressive 26.3% of the 2016 market share, Buena Vista didn’t need horror films to help its finances. However, once the Marvel superhero bubble bursts, don’t be surprised if they return to their practices from a decade ago, when horror content regularly fleshed out their yearly offerings.

So, maybe it’s time for the big studios to start taking their horror films more seriously. Many new talented and creative writers and directors have emerged on the scene and they are making these studios more money than most of the CG spectacles that hit the multiplex. The next time a big budget movie comes along that you really like, thank a “little horror film that could” for keeping the studio open and earning back all of the money lost by all the ones you didn’t like.

 

Different Walking Dead Producers Say Violence Was NOT Toned Down After Season Seven Fan Backlash

Last week, Horror News Network reported that The Walking Dead Executive Producer, Gale Anne Hurd, said that the level of violence in the show was toned down after fan reaction to the violent moments of Season Seven. Some fans were happy to hear about this change, while others were not so happy (One since-deleted comment on our twitter feed questioned if the show would be turning into a soap opera).

Some feathers were obviously ruffled by the statement, so now two more producers have told Entertainment Weekly that they have NOT toned down violence due to fan backlash! Showrunner, Scott Gimple, and executive producer and director, Greg Nicotero, offered a different perspectives on the situation.

According to Gimple:

“The violence in the premiere was pronounced for a reason. The awfulness of what happened to the characters was very specific to that episode and the beginning of this whole new story. I don’t think like that’s the base level of violence that necessarily should be on the show. It should be specific to a story and a purpose, and there was a purpose of traumatizing these characters to a point where maybe they would have been docile for the rest of their lives, which was Negan’s point. But I will say again, the violence in the premiere was for a specific narrative purpose and I would never say that that’s the baseline amount of violence that we would show on the show. If we’re ever going to see something that pronounced, there needs to be a specific narrative purpose for it.”

Entertainment Weekly documented Nicotero’s take:

“Executive producer and director Greg Nicotero answers with a flat “No” when asked if anything was toned down later as a result of fan feedback, and he also says that if they could go back, they would not change a thing. “As brutal as that episode 1 was, it’s still part of our storytelling bible, which is what the world is about. I don’t think we would ever edit ourselves, and I think — even after looking at that episode 1 again — as tough as it was for people to watch, I don’t think we would have done it any differently. I don’t think we’ll ever pull ourselves back. There is definitely a difference between violence against walkers and human on human violence, but truthfully, we’re serving our story.”

The magazine continued to question the two about specific events which occurred towards the end of the season which appeared to have been less explicit than similar scenes in prior episodes, but they stuck to their guns that nothing has been changed due to fan response.

Who’s telling the truth? We wont know until Season Eight premieres. One thing’s for sure, though: Gale Anne Hurd has been in the business a long time (working on such boundary pushing films as The Terminator and Aliens), and it’s unlikely she would make such a public error about such a hot topic. The truth is out there!

Godzilla 2 to be Written and Directed by Michael Dougherty

Horror News Network reported in October that Krampus and Trick ‘r Treat director Michael Dougherty would write the next installment in the Godzilla reboot, but Variety has reported today that he will also direct Godzilla 2.

Godzilla 2 will not only serve as the sequel to the successful reboot, but it will also  lead to a highly anticipated  rematch between King Kong and Godzilla in 2020. Variety’s Justin Kroll explained how this “Mega-Monster Universe” took shape when “In October 2015, Legendary and Warner Bros. made a joint announcement that all future “King Kong” and “Godzilla” films would be developed by Legendary and distributed by Warner Bros., starting with Kong: Skull Island in March (3/10/17). Legendary currently holds a distribution deal with Universal, but in order to re-team Godzilla and King Kong, Legendary decided to send the rights back over to Warner Bros. to be able to create this new “ecosystem” of giant super-species, both classic and new.”

Godzilla 2 is tentatively scheduled for a March. 22, 2019 release date.

 

 

Top 10 Horror Books of 2016

Cannibalism… murder… twisted love… revolution… confusion. These are some of the themes from some of my favorite books of 2016. Over the last year, more authors and titles have become available with new stories, characters and ways to cultivate horror coming out of the shadows. I was very lucky in 2016 to have so many talented and terrifying authors join me in live conversation on The Horror Happens Radio Show. Here is a list of my ten favorite horror titles that exemplify the independent horror spirit, knowledge and storytelling talent of these authors.

1. Vicki Beautiful – Somer Canon (Samhain Publishing Ltd.)

A wonderfully wicked debut novel from author Somer Canon on the publisher Samhain, finds a group of close friends faced with one of their own committing suicide after cancer has returned to destroy her perfect life ad family. Her final wishes are beyond crazy as it tests her group of friends and husband’s love, loyalty and the level of macabre we will go for the ones we care about. A very quick and personally challenging read for me, Somer challenges the reader to enter into a situation that not only is so farfetched but also connecting to and evaluating the close relationships they have in their lives. Powerful, wicked and dark, Somer Canon finds a personal voice in each of the characters and their relationships within the story whether through marriage, friendship or parent. Finding that balance of the macabre and truth, Vicki Beautiful is horror novel that pays off, creates conversation and offers depth in its storytelling. Truly a full course meal, Vicki Beautiful captivated me and made me feel uneasy as I followed the madness and perfection of the human monster. Well deserving of my number one. Read my review and insight from form Somer Canon on Vicki Beautiful here http://www.horrornewsnetwork.net/vicki-beautiful-review-insight-author-somer-canon/

 

2. Children of the Dark – Jonathan Janz (Sinister Grin Press)


It takes a truly talented writer to find the darkness of childhood. In the book Children of the Dark, we meet Will Burgess who is faced with his dysfunctional and damaged family. The girl he cannot have but his enemy can. The challenges of school. Being mature before his time and multiple version of evil in his path. Crafted on foundation of dysfunction, darkness and the that connection of growing up, John Janz creates a story that keeps you hooked and never allows the evil to settle but keeps the main character in the constant cross hairs along with his family and friends. Wonderful structure and character development that goes beyond the typical cast of characters with a storytelling pace that never slows down and fully develops each arc. A powerful read for me, that transported me back to my childhood days thankfully less adventurous then Will’s.

 

3. Blister– Jeff Strand (Sinister Grin Press)

Author Jeff Strand can bridge love and the macabre. With challenging and quirky characters in the back country comes a down home and f’ed up fable. A local legend of a deformed freak woman named “Blister” who is locked away in a shed. A cartoonist named Jason Tray who pushes the line to far and is sent away for some down time. A protective father with a secret. A town with too many secrets and cover up of the past. These sparks create the dark passion of Blister. Sharp, clever and never totally knowing the next step, this twisted tale blends unlikely love, deformed attraction, back water horror and sheer stupidity into one macabre romance novel that sticks with you and makes you rethink the ideal of beauty and the beast. Read my interview with Jeff Strand here http://www.horrornewsnetwork.net/four-time-bram-stoker-nominee-jeff-strand-talks-blister/

 

4. Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity – Alexandra West (McFarland Publishing)

The only book on this list not a horror novel, is an incredibly informative, researched and historic text that discusses and breaks down the movement of the New French Extremity that developed in late 1990’s with films, filmmakers and horror content that reflected the differences, conflict and darkness of France over the many years. Discussing a variety of films that created one of the most infamous sub-genres of horror filmmaking, Rue Morgue Magazine writer Alexandra West masterfully connects the reason for the madness that has been presented in such films as Trouble Every Day (2001), Irreversible (2002), Twentynine Palms (2003), High Tension (2003) and Martyrs (2008) to name a handful. West not only breaks down the films of that period but many of the filmmakers like Phillippe Grandrieux, Catherine Breillat and Claire Denis to also name a handful. West enlists such respected names like lecturer and writer Andrea Subissati and TIFF’s programmer Colin Geddes along with insight and knowledge from a variety of incredible sources and film experts. Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity is worth every moment invested as West goes beyond the ultra-violence, gore and extreme sexuality show reason and cause of these insidious and art house expressions. Films of the New French Extremity is an incredibly crafted book that delves into the madman, messages and mayhem caused by this movement and an educational piece for all those who dare to turn the page.

5. The Catcher’s Trap – Ricardo Henriquez (Inkshares)


Perhaps the most personal book on this list, author Ricardo Henriquez found his voice in his debut novel The Catcher’s Trap. This story revolves around a young man named Andres who has never truly fit in anywhere and never lived up to his expectations. Kidnapped one night and thrust into slavery to harness crops of special drug, Andres along with many who have been abducted by the “Catchers”, must face the conflict of survival or perish under a dictator rule and a destiny of revolution. Ricardo knocks this one out of the park facing so many challenges inside himself to create a statement of liberation from within. Created with so much emotion, respect towards the history he grew up with in Chile and the ability to battle the darkness inside with conflicting points of view, Ricardo tells a story that is more than one dimensional and offers the reader connection on many different levels. Hopefully the first book of a series going forward, The Catcher’s Trap is filled with twists, choices and mounting tension that is worth the time and is more than a horror novel. Read my full review here http://www.horrornewsnetwork.net/?s=the+catchers+trap

 

6. Savages – Greg Gifune
7. Black Tide: A Matt Rowley Novel – Patrick Freivald
8. Dream Woods – Patrick Lacey
9. Blood Sacrifice – Brian Moreland
10. I Kill in Peace – Hunter Shea

Split Finishes Number One at Weekend Box Office with $40 Million Dollar Take

According to Variety, Split, the psychological horror thriller by M. Night Shyamalan, finished first at the box office with $40.2 million in ticket sales, exceeding industry estimates by roughly $20 million dollars.

Shyamalan has become a director who can once again turn a profit for studios after a pair of disasterous big budget failures in the form of After Earth and Avatar: The Last Airbender.  Things got so bad for the formerly trendy director, that Shyamalan even took a break from directing to write a book about school reform entitled I Got Schooled, hoping to cash in on the state and federal money available to would-be “saviors” of education.

Realizing that the cut-throat world of Hollywood was a safer and less controversial place to conduct business than the shady corners populated by education reformers, Shyamalan returned to Tinseltown with 2015’s The Visit.  The low budget horror film cashed in, grossing $98,450,062 worldwide on a $5 million dollar budget.  While studios might not trust Shyamalan with $15o million dollar tent pole films, they seem to be willing to allow him to direct more traditional low budget horror films (Split’s production costs are reportedly under $1o million dollars and were primarily financed by the director himself).  The prolonged success of Split in a surprisingly competitive season for horror films will determine if the director of the Sixth Sense and Signs gets another shot at big budget box office glory.

Last week’s horror hit The Bye Bye Man waved bye-bye to ticket sales, finishing in 9th place with an estimate just over $3 million dollars. Even worse, Underworld: Blood Wars lost half of its screens this weekend after only two weeks of release and plummeted to roughly $1.5 million dollars.

Look for this trend of quick exits to continue with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter opening next weekend and the third film in the Ring trilogy Rings opening on February 3rd.

James Cameron to Return to Terminator Franchise with Deadpool Director, Tim Miller

Deadline has reported that the legendary James Cameron will return to the Terminator franchise with a “reboot and conclusion of one of cinema’s great science fiction tales.” In 2019, Cameron will regain certain rights to the franchise due to a copyright reversion which will occur 35 years after the release of the original 1984 film. This allows him to return to his creation with greater creative control (and greater profits) than ever before.

Cameron is reportedly in early talks with Deadpool director, Tim Miller, to direct the film. Miller is also known for visual effects work on blockbuster video games and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

As this is breaking news, lips are sealed as to how much involvement Cameron will have in the new film, whether it will follow the path of the recent sequels, and whether Arnold Schwarzenegger will return to his iconic role.

Stay tuned to Horror News Network for more info on this project as it breaks.

Sony Considering Sale of Film and TV Businesses After Difficult Year

The New York Post has reported that Tokyo’s Sony Corporation is “listening to bank pitches about a potential sale of its film and TV operations.”

Several sources told The Post that numerous banks have been visiting Sony offices with pitches. The article speculates that because Sony CEO Kaz Hirai has not filled outgoing Sony Entertainment boss Michael Lynton’s position despite the ample notice of Lynton’s departure, there may not be a position to fill.

This news is not entirely surprising. According to Box Office Mojo, Sony/Columbia was the fifth highest earning major studio in 2016, with a market share of just 8% when accounting for all 22 films they released during the year. To put that into perspective, 20th Century Fox and Universal each released 17 films in 2016, and each studio had a market share of 12.9% and 12.4%, respectively. Buena Vista released just 13 movies in 2016, but it held an impressive 26.3% of the market share.

Sony’s highest grossing film of the year was Ghostbusters (2016), a movie which disappointingly earned approximately $128 million domestically on a budget of $144 million. It’s most successful film of the year was definitely Don’t Breathe, Fede Alvarez’s impressive horror film that earned approximately $89 million on a budget of just $9.9 million.

The most shocking part of The Post’s report was this quote from an anonymous tipster: “They want to see how the “Emoji Movie” movie does because they think they have a franchise and it might help them get a better price.”

You heard that right… the fate of Sony Pictures lies in the hands of a film featuring talking text message characters.

Stay tuned to Horror News Network for more updates on the future of Sony Pictures as it breaks.

Image Comics Announces New Cullen Bunn Series Regression

Image Comics announced today that noted comic scribe, and 2016’s Horror News Network’s Comic Awards writer of the year, Cullen Bunn will write his first comic for the company entitled Regression.

Regression is, according to the official Image Comics press release, a horror tale that follows the life of, “Adrian, a man tormented by ghastly waking nightmares. Pushed to a point of desperation, Adrian reluctantly turns to past life regression hypnotherapy as a means of understanding and treating the unwanted visions. When his consciousness is cast back through time, Adrian witnesses a scene of horrific debauchery and diabolism before waking up.”

Fans know Bunn for this work on critically acclaimed Dark Horse series Harrow County, as well as a number of books from Marvel, including the current Monsters Unleashed event series.  What they may not know about the writer is his connection to and first hand knowledge of hypnotism and past-life regression.  Bunn stated that “What many people don’t know is that my father was a professional hypnotist for many years. While it wasn’t part of his on-stage act, he often conducted past life regressions. During these sessions I saw people describing other time periods with pinpoint accuracy and even saw someone speaking a language they did not know. I also witnessed some really extremely creepy regressions that planted the seeds for this story of supernatural horror conspiracy.”

Regression #1 (with art by Danny Luckert who is making his professional debut on this title) is scheduled to be released on May 10, 2017.

Teaser Trailer Released For Anne Hathaway Monster Movie, Colossal

I like Anne Hathaway and I like monsters. That makes me part of a very specific demographic that Hollywood is aiming for with Colossal, a new film where Anne Hathaway can psychically control a Pacific Rim style giant monster.

If you also like Anne Hathaway and monsters, check out the teaser trailer for the film below:

The film is written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, a Spanish writer, actor, and director who has numerous horror and thriller projects on his resume (V/H/S ViralOpen Windows). Judging by the trailer, Colossal will have a more lighthearted and humorous tone. The movie also stars Dan Stevens (The Guest) and Jason Sudeikis (Saturday Night Live, Horrible Bosses).

Colossal will hit the big screen on April 7th, 2017. In the meantime, stay tuned to Horror News Network for more coverage of Colossal as it breaks.

Walking Dead Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd Says Violence Was Toned Down After Season Seven Fan Backlash

The Walking Dead’s Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd says that the level of violence was toned down after fans reacted negatively to the double skull-bashing season seven premiere.  Variety reported that Hurd spoke to the press at the NAPTE Conference and made clear that decisions were made after the October 23rd premiere to move away from explicit violence.

Hurd said ““We were able to look at the feedback on the level of violence. We did tone it down for episodes we were still filming for later on in the season.”  She went on to say that, “This is not a show that is torture porn,” and reitirated that “we don’t cross that line.”  

Fans may disagree with Hurd’s assessment (that the show does not traffic in “torture porn” at times), but also agree with her decision to move away from grisly scenes like the one in the season opener.  As reported in Horror News Network in November, The Walking Dead did suffer their greatest ratings decline in the history of the show after the controversial first episode of season seven.  The first episode featuring the “slap-happy” Negan and his unfortunate victims garnered 17 million viewers.  The second episode of season seven dropped to 12.5 million and has hovered around 10.5 million viewers in the second half.

Time will tell if this move was made to appease mainstream fans or if the producers behind the show are reaping the rewards of not only an excessively violent debut, but also an angry fan base that just recently had to wait nearly five months (and 25 minutes into the first episode this season) to find out “Who Shot J.R.?” (or Glen and Abraham in this case).