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The Awesome Power of Netflix on the Box Office, and the 10 Biggest Horror Movie Openings of All Time

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | September 16, 2013 | Comments ()


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Though Nikki Finke claims that it is “no surprise” that a horror movie that opened on Friday the 13th would do so well, most were nevertheless shocked that Insidious: Chapter 2, a sequel to a movie that grossed only $54 million during its entire domestic run, would open with $40 million, making it the third largest horror movie opening of all time (and by “horror,” I don’t mean The Sixth Sense and Alien. I mean straight-up horror movie). I think it has much less to do with the fact that Insidious: Chapter 2 opened on Friday the 13th and far more to do with the fact that Insidious was a very popular movie on Netflix.

If my Facebook wall during late 2011 and 2012 is any indication, Insidious gained a lot of fans thanks to streaming on Netflix. In fact, it was rated more than 1.8 million times on the streaming service (which is a huge number for a movie that was only seen 7 million times in theaters). Studios behind horror movies should keep this in mind when deciding whether to license their properties to Netflix, as they can add to their tallies twice: Once with licensing fees, and again when the sequel boasts a bigger box-office. I wouldn’t be surprised, in fact, if a movie like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, which has played well for a couple of years on Netflix, eventually landed a sequel, even if it is of the straight-to-Netflix variety. The studios behind recent horror movie hits, The Conjuring and The Purge, should also take notice, especially if they are planning sequels (and, of course, they are). An inevitable Insidious: Chapter 3 would also benefit if Chapter 2 were once again licensed for Netflix.

While we’re on the subject of the box-office power of Insidious: Chapter 2, let’s place its opening weekend in context with the other nine highest grossing opening weekends of all time for horror movies.

Paranormal Activity 3 — $53 million

The Conjuring — $41.8 million

Insidious: Chapter 2: $41 million

Paranormal Activity 2 — $40.6 million

Friday the 13th (2009) — $40.5 million

The Grudge — $39.1 million

Freddy Vs. Jason — $36.4 million

The Ring Two — $35 million

Scream 3 — $34.7 million

The Purge — $34 million

The Devil Inside — $33 million

I should also note that the Paranormal Activity movies have had runs on Netflix, too, which was no doubt instrumental in their sequels’ successes.

As for the rest of the box office: The only other wide release this weekend was Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones’ The Family, and it fizzled, raking in a meager $13.9 million. Meanwhile, at number three, Riddick saw a whopping 66 percent drop, bringing in only $6.5 million in its second weekend, while at four and five, The Butler and We’re the Millers continue to add to their sleeper hit totals, arriving at $99 million and $131 million, respectively.


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Jiffylush

    I am a big fan of horror movies going way back. Is it just me or does it seem like all of these are extremely forgettable movies. This chart to me says a lot less about horror movies than it does to me about how big an opening weekend can be for a sequel.

    For the record my three "recent" favorites are:

    The Descent: The first half of this movie was amazingly suspenseful, I can't remember another movie that had me on the edge of my seat as much as this one. The second half of the movie was different, but still good.

    Evil Dead: The new one of course, I thought it was a perfectly serviceable remake/homage and liked it a lot. Then I got to the last quarter of the movie and oh my god it was so awesome.

    Cabin in the Woods: So much fun, to me this is a movie made for lovers of horror movies. If this hadn't been made I would have put Tucker and Dale here as it was also just a great time.

  • Slobby79

    you know netflix deals arent negotiated by title but by studio slate. hence why there are no Sony Pictures Classics movies until the rights revert back to the producers on Netflix WI.

  • Some Guy

    I just wanna know why Alien isn't considered a straight-up horror movie, just because it has an alien instead of a demon, and a spaceship instead of a creepy house.

    By what criteria does Alien not meet the horror movie standard?

  • Jiffylush

    Completely agree, Alien is a horror movie set in a space ship and I freaking love it.

    There is a book that I enjoyed called "Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror". It goes into a lot of detail about a lot of movies including The Last House on the Left, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Halloween and oh yeah ALIEN.

  • mats19

    I think it's not JUST a horror movie which makes it not fit the criteria. It's a sci-fi / horror / action / thriller where as I don't think any of the OTHER movies on that list have cross over genre appeal.

  • Fredo

    I think it's a horror movie. Now Aliens? That's just an out-and-out action movie.

  • mike

    saw it Sunday evening. Not nearly as good or as scary as the original, BUT it gets bonus points for attempting to both move the storyline further down the road while also tying together plot points from the original.

    Also, the #1 reason these scary/horror movies will continue to be do well at the box office is because most (though not all) are a nice divergence from the rest of what's out there. Rom-Com and Pretentious Oscar Bait rely on paying A-list actors, while Superhero and Mindless Action spend their budgets on CGI and explosions. It's kinda nice to go the movies and not be beat over the head -either with some melodramatic message or over-the-top visual effect. Just jump scares and spooky mood music.

  • Robert

    This is a big opening for a horror movie, that is true. I just wish we could get past the shock of a horror movie debuting at number one. You want to know why this happens? A lot of the horror fans like me show up on opening weekend because we're excited to see a good new horror movie. We just keep jumping and jumping and hoping one day we'll find Horror Prime. It's like Sliders, only with snarkier people and a lot of hooting at the screen.

    Pro tip: go opening day matinee to a horror movie so you see it with the die hards who will either buy into everything or turn it into Riff Trax Live where everyone's a host. It's fun either way.

  • Fredo

    Is it any coincidence between the success of horror movies and our own dark times?

  • John Johnston

    Not at all. See the early 1930's and mid 1970's for other examples of this phenomenon.

  • Jezzer

    Okay, I'm going in:

    Huh?

  • Fredo

    Correlation between times of great national stress and the success of horror movies.

    As John Johnston pointed out: Great Depression sees the rise of the classic Universal movie monsters. The Red Scare of the 50s sees the arrival of the Invaders from Space stuff. The 70s see rise of the demonic possession genre and the killer-chasing-teens/slasher movies.

    Meanwhile, the 90s were a relatively tame time and the most successful horror movie we got was Scream, which was all about how there was nothing new and everyone was just a copycat of the better stuff of the past.

  • e jerry powell

    Well put.

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