5 horror movies have topped the box office this year and it shows why the genre is well-suited for the current market

5 horror movies have topped the box office this year and it shows why the genre is well-suited for the current market
·3 min read
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in "Candyman."
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in "Candyman." Universal Pictures
  • "Candyman," which cost $25 million to make, earned $22 million at the US box office over the weekend.

  • It suggests that the struggling theatrical market can still sustain low-to-mid-budget horror movies.

  • The horror genre has generated 20% of the overall theatrical revenue in North America during the pandemic.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Universal's "Candyman" is the latest horror movie to debut with solid numbers at the box office during the pandemic as the theatrical industry looks to recover.

The sequel to the 1992 original "Candyman," directed by Nia DaCosta, opened over the weekend with $22 million domestically, making it the fifth horror movie of the summer to debut at No. 1 at the North American box office.

David A. Gross, the head of the Hollywood consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, called it "an excellent opening over a normally quiet late-August weekend."

With a $25 million production budget, it's another example of why horror movies are capitalizing on a theatrical market in flux: they were already audience favorites, along with superhero movies, before the pandemic. Now, as Hollywood's big-budget tentpoles struggle to thrive in the damaged marketplace, low-to-mid-budget horror movies are still doing solid business.

The genre has generated nearly $500 million during the pandemic in North America, which accounts for 20% of the overall theatrical revenue during that time (from March 20, 2020 to August 29, 2021), according to Comscore.

"Filmmakers like Jordan Peele [who produced 'Candyman'], the Blumhouse roster of talent, and others have helped the horror genre gain a new level of respect, box-office revenue potential, and enduring audience appeal," said Paul Dergarabedian, the Comscore senior media analyst.

Here's how the other four No. 1 horror movies since May have performed:

  • Paramount's "A Quiet Place Part 2" opened in May with $47.5 million, and has earned $160 million domestically and nearly $300 million worldwide. It cost $60 million to make.

  • Warner Bros.' "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do it" debuted in June with $24 million domestically. It ultimately grossed $65.5 million in North America and $201 million globally while also streaming on HBO Max. It had a budget of $40 million.

  • Universal's "Old" cost $18 million to make and the director M. Night Shyamalan financed it himself. It made $16.8 million in its opening weekend last month, and has grossed $46.5 million domestically and $84 million globally since.

  • Lionsgate's "Saw" spinoff, "Spiral," grossed a disappointing $8 million in its May opening weekend, going on to earn $23 million domestically and $34 million globally. With a $40 million budget, it's the only movie on the list that can be considered a true flop, but it did get the "Saw" franchise over the $1 billion mark at the global box office.

"Candyman" received positive reviews and has an 85% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience score is a less enthusiastic 74% and it received a B grade from CinemaScore, which surveys audiences on a movie's opening night. It suggests that the movie could struggle after its debut weekend, especially as Marvel's "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" opens this weekend. But Dergarabedian argued that the movie being exclusive to theaters could help its long-term potential at the box office.

And with a solid debut and a low budget, "Candyman" has already suggested that the struggling theatrical market can at least sustain low-to-mid-budget horror movies.

Big-budget tentpoles "Black Widow" and "F9" are the top two domestic films of the year, but they haven't grossed nearly as much as they would in a normal marketplace, which is troubling for the industry as they cost $200 million to produce.

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