Friday, October 25, 2013

You Don't Need Money to Scare the S*** Out of People

As a college student looking pursue a career in the movie industry, I have heard the same advice on countless occasions: 

"Movies? Yikes...You should probably study something more stable; like psychology, or art history." 

However, upon realizing that I'm pretty set in my decision to make films, people in the industry give me another piece of advice: 

"Start by producing horror. They're relatively cheap to make, and they have a built in audience." 

I decided to do my own research on the topic. How small of a budget can horror films have and still make a profit? Does a bigger budget necessarily guarantee a better movie? I started by comparing two horror films with very different budgets.

This is the trailer for the 2010 thriller, The Wolfman directed by Joe Johnston. It cost $150,000,000 to produce.

This is the trailer for the 1978 horror film, Halloween, directed by John Carpenter. The independent film had the minuscule budget of $325,000.

When looking exclusively at box office sales, The Wolfman outperformed Halloween; grossing a whopping $139,789,765 as opposed to Halloween's $70,000,000. Despite this, in the end, The Wolfman lost $10,210,235 while Carpenter's Halloween made $69,675,000. This comparison isn't the only example of low budget horror films ultimately earning more money than bigger budget productions.

Director Tobe Hooper's 1974 film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is my all-time favorite example of the little budget guys coming out on top. The thriller cost under $140,000 to produce and ended up grossing $26,000,000. Not bad Tobe. Not bad. 

For those who haven't seen it:

Horror movies will *almost always sell tickets.

 ( *I use the word "almost" due to the failure of the horror film Playback which earned exactly $265 at the box office in 2012.)

Horror films will always sell tickets, but they'll never be blockbusters. Some people just don't like scary movies. They never will. Luckily, there will always be those high school couples and adrenaline junkies that will go out and see anything classified as a horror film. Keeping this in mind, it doesn't economically make sense to spend millions upon millions of dollars to produce a genre of movie that targets a relatively small (although stable) population.

So in the end, the second piece of advice is correct. Scary movies are a great place to start when you want to break into the industry but don't have any money. Still, if horror isn't your thing, there's always porn.

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