How recent box office trends can predict the future of horror

1 of 2

John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place — Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Join me as I analyze the recent box office performance of the horror genre and  predict the future of the genre based on current box office trends.

The horror genre has been an integral part of cinema since the beginning. The silent era featured a slew of influential chillers, including Nosferatu and Lon Chaney‘s The Phantom of the Opera. The dawn of the “talkie” era saw the rise of the Universal Monsters who dominated horror through the 1950s. The 1960s and ’70s saw the arrival of more shocking, risque, fare such as Psycho, Night of the Living Dead, and The Exorcist. The past few decades have seen the rise and fall of several horror sub-genres, including slashers, J-horror, and found footage.

More from Horror Movies

While horror is constantly evolving, it is one of the few genres that has stood the test of time. It’s also one of the most lucrative genres at the box office. An analysis of horror box office trends can be a great predictor of what the future of the genre may hold. Hollywood possesses a “what have you done for me lately” mentality, so they are apt to keep producing the types of films that are scoring at the box office.

I am going to analyze the box office performance of the horror genre over the past few years. Specifically, I am going to take a look at the top five horror films at the domestic box office each year since 2015. This data will allow me to read the tea leaves and ascertain the types of horror films that we are likely to see in the near future.

New plastic Pennywise — Courtesy of NECA


The top five highest grossing horror films at the domestic box office in 2015 were: The Visit, Insidious: Chapter 3, Poltergeist, Krampus, and Unfriended. 2015 was a particularly weak year for horror at the box office as The Visit was the only horror film to crack the $60 million mark domestically.

One of the biggest commonalities among these five titles is that they all carry the PG-13 rating, and most of them were produced by Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions. The majority of these films also carried budgets at or below $10 million.

The Purge – Courtesy of TVGN and Blumhouse Productions, Platinum Dunes


The top five highest grossing horror films at the domestic box office in 2016 were: The Conjuring 2Don’t Breathe, The Purge: Election Year, 10 Cloverfield Lane, and Lights OutThe overall performance of 2016’s horror output was much healthier than that of 2015.

In terms of patterns, it is immediately apparent that R-rated horror films were more popular in 2016 as the three highest grossing films carried the restricted rating. Also, the majority of these films were continuations of established franchises. Once again, the budgets of most of these films were $10 million or less.

Jane Levy in Don’t Breathe, courtesy of Screen Gems


The top five highest grossing horror films at the domestic box office in 2017 were: IT, Get Out, Split, Annabelle: Creation, and Alien: Covenant.

2017 was quite possibly the horror genre’s best year at the box office as four horror films grossed over $100 million and one (IT) grossed over $300 million. 2017 also saw the genre receive the critical accolades that have so often eluded it with Get Out’s Academy Award nominations, including a win for Best Original Screenplay.

R-rated horror films and franchises continued to dominate in 2017. Blumhouse Productions also proved to be a major force yet again with Get Out and Split.

via Warner Bros.