So, when I was looking up those 'art films' yesterday, I realized that I never did my 'look back at how horror did in 2008'. So, that's what I decided to do this morning. Unfortunately, there's no surprises here. It was a shit year. I mean, just think back... NOTHING made me rush out to the theaters. I was far more excited by what was coming out on DVD.
Anyhow, I've listed all the horror films that came out last year and the number is how they did, box office-wise, against all the movies that came out.
#7 - Twilight
#24 - The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
#39 - Cloverfield
#40 - The Day the Earth Stood Still
#42 - Hellboy II: The Golden Army
#49 - The Happening
#54 - Saw V
#55 - The Strangers
#65 - Prom Night (2008)
#66 - Rambo
#70 - Max Payne
#88 - Quarantine
#91 - The Eye
#94 - Mirrors
#95 - Space Chimps
#101 - One Missed Call
#104 - Shutter
#114 - The X-Files: I Want to Believe
#117 - The Spirit
#121 - The Ruins
#142 - Doomsday
First off, lets just reiterate that it was not a banner year for horror. "Twilight" is not really a horror and neither is "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor". In fact, it was a bit embarrassing to actually write those in there. So, really, the first film that I would actually classify as sort of horror came in at #39 and that's "Cloverfield", which would definitely be considered a financial success. It's domestic total gross was $80Million and it also brought in over $90Million in foreign for a grand total of $170Million. For sure a film that had international appeal and it should garner a sequel. Also, it should be duly noted that it was rated PG-13.
The first R-Rated horror on the list is "The Happening" which, for all intents and purposes, as far as I'm concerned, was an unmitigated disaster, but still seemed to do okay at the box office. It pulled in $64Million domestically, $98Million foreign, for a worldwide total of $163Million. For me, the film continued the slippery slope of shittiness that's come out of M Night Shyamalan since "The 6th Sense", but what do I know? I just watch this shit.
The next R-Rated horror on the list is "Saw V", which was, basically, exactly what you'd expect to see from the fifth installment in the franchise. What's very interesting about the "Saw" franchise is to look at how each of them did at the box office. The one that grossed the most? "Saw II". From there, each sequel gets progressively less money... until you reach the least grossing film of the series, the original "Saw". It doesn't take an economist to know why, though. The original "Saw" came out on the least amount of theaters, then built up its audience on its DVD release, which pumped up the release of "Saw II". So, it's safe to say that the franchise is on a bit of gradual decline. Either way, "Saw V" was what "Saw V" was ...and I'll still go see "Saw VI", "VII", "VIII", "IX" and "X".
There's really nothing else of note in there, to be honest. The trend of more PG-13 films, trying to reach broader audiences, continued and the amount of quality horror being released theatrically suffered, due to that. It's simple math. It's tough to put out good horror films that are rated PG-13, but that's what the studios want. So, you have weaker horror films in the theater. Weaker horror films in the theater means a weaker year at the box office for horror and less people going to see them. That, in turn, could mean that horror attracted less fans this last year. However, I don't think that's true... as I always say, it just means that horror fans are looking elsewhere and that "elsewhere", over the last few years, has been the DVD market. I'm going to do some research into how horror did there, next.
The conclusion? 2008 theatrical horror sucked, but that's continuing to make horror fans turn to the DVD market. Some of them are going to 'bricks and mortar' retailers, such as Blockbuster, but more and more of them are turning to the web and getting their films off Amazon or Netflix. If that's the case, that should put you, the indie horror filmmaker, in a good place. Your film is already there and that looks to be where the audience is going. So, it could be a good year for indie horror. However, 2009 will be a more telling year... the slate of horror coming out this year looks to be better, what with "Friday the 13th" and "My Bloody Valentine 3-D" both currently in the top 10 films of the year already. However, this recession could push a lot of people towards home entertainment, as going to the theater isn't really that cheap. So, will quality horror bring audiences to the theaters... or will the recession kill theatrical horror for good?