'Halloween': Why horror films make a killing at the box office

Michael Myers makes his return to movie theaters this weekend and with the fictional serial killer comes one...

Posted: Oct 21, 2018 12:55 PM
Updated: Oct 21, 2018 12:55 PM

Michael Myers makes his return to movie theaters this weekend and with the fictional serial killer comes one of the most enduring genres of all time.

"Halloween," the eleventh film in the horror franchise, nabbed a strong $33.3 million on its opening day Friday and is expected to bring in roughly $80 million domestically this weekend for Universal. That's up from earlier projections of $60 million and could be one of the biggest openings in October's history. It would also make it the highest grossing debut for the franchise. Last year's big screen version of Stephen King's "It" opened at $123 million, for comparison.

Arts and entertainment

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Halloween

Holidays and observances

Media industry

Movie and video industry

Movie revenues

Movies

The film, starring Jamie Lee Curtis, is a direct sequel to the 1978 version, which means it continues the original's story and ignores the other films in the series.

So why does Hollywood keep coming back to "Halloween?" It's because horror is a unique genre with broad appeal, films that are affordable to make and that are best enjoyed at brick and mortar theaters where other viewers are screaming with you in the dark. Studios benefit from the high return on investment and theaters get more foot traffic at the box office and at concession stands where they make the highest profit margins. In an age of on-demand streaming from the comfort of a living room, horror films brings people back to the theater.

"Horror really is the easiest sell," film critic Amy Nicholson told CNN Business. Nicholson is the host of The Ringer's "Halloween Unmasked," an eight-part podcast series about the making and cultural impact of the franchise.

"You could say, 'with this film I'm going to try to make you laugh' and that may not work for everybody. People have different senses of humor," she said. "But if you say, 'here's a movie that's going to make you cringe,' that's going to hit a much broader swath of people."

Paramount's "A Quiet Place" reportedly cost $17 million, but nabbed $334 million globally, bringing in 19 times what it cost to make. Last year's breakout hit "Get Out" made $255 million worldwide off of a reported budget of just $4.5 million. That's 56 times its budget.

Neither of these recent blockbusters compare to the original "Halloween," which was made for just $300,000 in 1978 and brought back $60 million, or 200 times its costs.

"You don't need stars, you don't need huge name directors," Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations, told CNN Business. "There's not a lot of risk when you're talking about horror films."

Horror is a genre that is ideal to watch in the theater because there's "something contagious about fear," according to Caetlin Benson-Allott, an associate professor at Georgetown University who specializes in new media's impact on film.

"In academia, we use the term 'affect' to describe an emotional intensity that's shared among people, that's not just an individual's internal emotion," Benson-Allott told CNN Business. "Horror movies are a perfect example of 'affect' at work. When I hear the other people screaming in the theater with me, it amplifies my response."

Jason Blum -- the CEO of Blumhouse Productions, which backed "Halloween," "Get Out" and "The Purge" -- told CNN Business that no genre has been spared from being cannibalized by streaming services. But "horror is certainly more immune than other genres."

Blum explained that filmmakers who don't typically make horror movies are suddenly eager to make a great horror film, largely because "they know the theatrical experience will be preserved" since "the genre works really well in movie theaters." Great examples of this are "Get Out" director Jordan Peele and "A Quiet Place" director John Krasinski, two comedic actors who created hit horror films in recent years.

Another reason horror is having a moment right now is because its fictional stories might be more comforting than what's happening in the real world.

"I think it's because the world is a particularly scary place. It's nice to go somewhere to see something that's scary, that's not real," Blum said. "I think it's as simple as that."

Nicholson thinks there is reason why "Halloween" is particularly relatable at the moment.

"Michael Myers is, in a way, one of the original angry young men, who is just mad for reasons we can't comprehend," she said. "That's a story we've been talking about a lot lately in the news, why are some people just angry and how do we reach them? Michael Myers is a man you can't reach, and that's terrifying."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 113081

Reported Deaths: 3231
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7823176
DeSoto676778
Harrison490283
Jackson439383
Rankin385986
Madison375793
Lee349079
Forrest298078
Jones285384
Washington253799
Lafayette244042
Lauderdale2398134
Lamar219038
Bolivar199477
Oktibbeha197654
Neshoba1820111
Lowndes175562
Panola167638
Leflore163287
Sunflower158849
Warren153255
Monroe146572
Pontotoc145219
Pike137256
Lincoln136856
Marshall136226
Copiah135736
Coahoma124036
Scott123829
Grenada120638
Yazoo119933
Simpson119549
Union116025
Leake113940
Holmes113760
Tate113639
Itawamba111325
Pearl River110559
Adams105243
Prentiss102919
Wayne99421
Alcorn96712
George95718
Covington94525
Marion93342
Tippah86521
Newton84927
Chickasaw83225
Winston82621
Tallahatchie82525
Tishomingo79741
Hancock78727
Attala78126
Clarke72750
Clay68421
Jasper67417
Walthall63327
Calhoun61812
Noxubee59617
Smith58516
Claiborne53416
Montgomery53123
Tunica52317
Yalobusha51314
Lawrence50414
Perry48423
Carroll46812
Greene45918
Stone45514
Amite42013
Humphreys41916
Quitman4176
Jefferson Davis40011
Webster36613
Wilkinson33120
Kemper32115
Benton3194
Sharkey28014
Jefferson27110
Franklin2373
Choctaw2036
Issaquena1064
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 154942

Reported Deaths: 2660
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22720374
Mobile14405314
Tuscaloosa10066137
Montgomery9820196
Madison907894
Shelby715361
Lee646165
Baldwin644369
Marshall431048
Calhoun416059
Etowah412249
Morgan400033
Houston365532
DeKalb325428
Elmore312852
St. Clair283842
Limestone273630
Walker269993
Talladega259135
Cullman231024
Lauderdale212540
Jackson205515
Autauga202130
Franklin201731
Colbert193330
Russell19053
Blount187325
Dallas186027
Chilton182632
Escambia171428
Coffee16829
Covington166629
Dale163851
Chambers133043
Pike131313
Tallapoosa129587
Clarke127317
Marion105029
Butler99840
Barbour9969
Marengo98222
Winston90613
Geneva8447
Lawrence81131
Pickens81117
Randolph80514
Bibb80114
Hale74830
Cherokee72314
Clay72212
Lowndes70228
Henry6386
Bullock63717
Monroe63610
Washington62312
Crenshaw59830
Perry5816
Wilcox55912
Fayette55713
Conecuh55613
Cleburne5327
Macon53020
Sumter46821
Lamar4595
Choctaw38712
Greene34016
Coosa1993
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 71°
Columbus
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 70°
Oxford
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 68°
Starkville
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 64°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather