In January of this year, I wrote that Horror movies are secretly saving Hollywood’s major film studios. Ten months later it turns out that it’s no longer a secret! The New York Times just crunched the numbers and reports that 2017 is “the biggest year in horror history,” citing the runaway success of such hits as Get Out, It, and Split.
As of this Friday, the combined box office earnings of all of the horror films of 2017 sits at $733.5 million. With two months left to sell tickets, that number will undoubtedly climb even higher. The current figure is already $100 million higher than the previous box office champ: the horror movies of 2000. Then, the release of Scream 3, Scary Movie, and What Lies Beneath earned a combined $617.7 million at the multiplex.
While the news is a tremendous development for horror fans who have been hoping their whole lives for mainstream recognition of their favorite flicks, it certainly isn’t surprising to anyone who has been paying attention. So far, It has earned nearly $324 million domestic on a budget of just $35 million. That’s the kind of money that tent-pole superhero flicks with $100 million budgets pray for!
But with mainstream earnings comes mainstream sensibilities. It‘s appeal stretched far beyond its target audience by telling a relatively tame story in comparison to the other R-rated horror hits of its time. Filmmakers of horror movies have historically had more creative control in comparison to the standards of other genres due to low production costs and low sales expectations. While the 2000s introduced the concept of test audiences to all genres, horror fans have still been treated to a variety of original (and sometimes challenging) films. Hopefully, the studios don’t learn the wrong lesson from these incredible earnings and begin to enact the same kind of corporate oversight which homogenizes all of the PG-13 summer movies in search of It-like performance at the box office. They must keep in mind that Get Out is so wildly popular because it offers counter-programming to typical Hollywood fare.
While today’s news will certainly give movie executives reason to cheer, the figures only tell half of the story. The New York Times calculated its rankings by reviewing box office performance that was not adjusted for inflation. The Exorcist earned nearly $233 million back in 1973, but when adjusted for inflation that number surpasses all of horror’s combined earnings in 2017: $987.7 million! But then again, there’s no shame in being beaten by the best…
Stay tuned to Horror News Network for more details on horror films at the box office as they break!