Is horror dead?! Horror must be dead!!
Despite the fact that it’s been an INCREDIBLE summer for horror, both financially and just plain in terms of film quality, the above question is yet again one that’s being tossed around on the internet as if it’s actually a valid one to be asking. Of course, if one horror movie doesn’t do all that well at the box office, it MUST mean that the genre as a whole, or at least a specific sub-genre, is on its last legs, because that’s just the way the internet operates. We react to everything in extremes, and god forbid the facts ever get in the way of our extreme headlines and click-bait suggestions.
The facts, as always, are currently being thrown aside in favor of alluring headlines and tweets that have referred to Adam Wingard’s BLAIR WITCH as a “bomb” and/or “flop,” and many have gone as far as to point out that even the much-maligned sequel BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2 out-grossed this year’s franchise reboot in its opening weekend. Well hot damn. That sounds pretty dire!
So what are the facts here? BLAIR WITCH, a direct sequel to the original BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, pulled in a domestic opening weekend gross of $9,576,057, coming up behind Clint Eastwood’s SULLY in second place on the charts. Seeing as it was released in 3,121 theaters, and is a follow-up to one of the most well-known and influential horror movies released in the past 20 years, one would have undoubtedly expected BLAIR WITCH to fare better at the box office; early estimates, as of a few days before opening night, projected the film’s opening weekend at around $20 million.
The fact? BLAIR WITCH did about half the business it was expected to.
The more important fact? BLAIR WITCH had a production budget of just $5 million.
Somehow, the extreme nature of the internet has turned a movie that literally doubled its production budget in just three days into a box office flop that could potentially tank the horror genre. I repeat, BLAIR WITCH DOUBLED its production budget in its opening weekend alone, and yet is being considered a bomb of such epic proportions that Lionsgate, Adam Wingard, and everyone else involved in the film should be ashamed of what they’ve done. Of course, the reality is that BLAIR WITCH merely underperformed, but here on the internet, such vague descriptors just don’t cut it.
I guess “BLAIR WITCH Underperformed” is a bad headline. And it’s a terribly boring tweet.
The great thing about the horror genre, particularly the found footage sub-genre that THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT very much pioneered back in 1999, is that scary stories can be told with miniscule budgets. Much to the delight of studios, a found footage movie need not make all that much money to turn a profit, which is the single biggest reason why you’ve seen so many of them in the wake of that first foray out into the woods of Burkittsville. BLAIR WITCH, due to its low budget, is a film that is going to turn a profit in the long haul – I posit that it already has, but there’s no telling what the marketing budget was – and though it may not be as much of a profit as Lionsgate hoped or any of us expected, history will damn sure not reflect that the film was a flop. Because that just doesn’t line up with the facts.
No, BLAIR WITCH may not have made a great case for the franchise continuing beyond this point , nor is $10 million an overly impressive number for any franchise reboot, but to seriously label it a box office bomb is to entirely misunderstand that opening weekend numbers are relative to a film’s budget. If you make a product for $20 and you sell it for $10, you haven’t done all that well for yourself. But when you make a product for $10 and sell it for $20, you should probably have nothing but a smile on your face.
BLAIR WITCH turned $5 million into $10 million in just three days.
Movies that flop don’t instantly double their budgets.
And that’s a fact.
*All Photos: Lionsgate