The Quorum

Horror Is In A Rut. Can Any Of The Five On The Horizon Change That?

Of the many challenges facing theatrical over the past five years (pandemic, superhero fatigue, a pair of industry strikes), the one constant has been the success of horror films. Though not for everyone, the genre has ardent fans who appreciate sharing a good scare in a theater with fellow horror fans. Relatively cheap to make, horror films don’t always need big numbers to be profitable. When they break out big, the upside can be huge.

That’s why it’s so surprising to see the current downtrend for the genre. As you can see below, in 2023, five horror films opened above $30M, including FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S, which opened to $80M despite being released day-and-date on Peacock. But in the five months since FREDDY, it’s been all quiet on the horror front. Not only did the four releases since then fail to reach $30M, none got higher than $12M.

In some ways this is to be expected. Looking at this list, it’s clear that sequels and known IP significantly outperform originals. The average opening for a known IP horror film in 2023 was $27M versus $12M for an original. Since the last four horror films were all originals, perhaps we should cut them some slack. At the same time, however, M3GAN opened to $30M as an original, and in 2022, SMILE and THE BLACK PHONE opened to $22M and $23M, respectively. So it’s not unheard of for a film to break out despite not being attached to existing IP.

Maybe this is just a momentary hiccup. It’s likely that A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE, which arrives on June 28th, will bring many horror fans to the theater. Until then, five films are on the horizon, and none look poised to open above $30M. Most, if not all of them, may struggle to do half of that. Here’s a closer look.

Three of the five are originals, while THE FIRST OMEN and STRANGERS: CHAPTER 1 are prequels within their respective franchises. On paper, these two have the greatest chance of a $20M or $30M opening. But that’s just on paper. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

Since 2022, the median opening weekend for a horror film is $12M, while the average is $17M.

Let’s start by looking at awareness. The table below shows awareness for the five films as well as QUIET. The first dot (dark yellow) shows the current awareness, the second dot (light yellow) shows the change over the past seven days, and the third dot (brown) shows the average awareness for all horror films at the same distance from release.

Looking at QUIET, for example, awareness sits at 33%, which is well above the average of 21%. That’s a good thing. That suggests QUIET will open well above the average of $17M.

The other five films are on less certain footing. As expected, OMEN and STRANGERS are outperforming the group average. Awareness for OMEN is 37% versus the average of 34%, while STRANGERS is at 28% versus the average of 23%. THE WATCHERS is also slightly above the average. ABIGAIL and TAROT, however, are trailing the average. Of the five, STRANGERS is showing the most strength in awareness.

Things look much better on the interest side. At 55%, interest in QUIET is well above the average of 44%. All the films either match or exceed the average for horror films at the same distance from release. None, however, exceed the average by as many points as QUIET. STRANGERS comes closest with a 7-point lead of 49% versus 42%.

So, what does this all mean? First, the tracking shows that QUIET is in good shape. Second, interest in the other five titles is not bad. They are all equal to or above the group average. It’s the awareness that is lagging. Third, of the next five films, STRANGERS is showing the strongest potential.

Can any of the five films scheduled to arrive before QUIET reverse the general malaise towards horror? STRANGERS is best positioned. However, none look like breakout hits along the lines of the $30M openers from 2023.

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