Let’s Have A Chat About The Business Of Horror In Australia & Thoughts On ‘The Cabin In The Woods’

Hi Guys, it’s been really interesting to see the vocal response to people about the direct to home entertainment release of THE CABIN IN THE WOODS in Australia and whilst it’s coming from the Whedon fans (I am one – but I’m not up in arms about the strategy) this is a really good opportunity to talk about the genre of horror and it’s performance in this territory in comparison to the U.S. and generally everywhere else in the world.

HORROR, as most film geeks like me know, is a great and very profitable genre to work in – especially in the United States. Most horror films are very cheap to produce, don’t require headlining cast and get great traction as most people do enjoy a little scare every now and then.  Though not always the rule, horror’s general target market is male and in that 15-35 age bracket. There are exceptions, as always, most notably THE EXORCIST, THE OMEN, THE SHINING etc etc but as we talk more of contemporary horror its all squarely directed at the late teen young adult market.

So looking at horror in Australia and measuring it against the U.S. it gives you a good indication of how we embrace the genre. Traditionally, the performance of any film against the United States is 10% pro rata – or if a film grosses $10m in the U.S. you’d expect it to gross around $1m here. So, looking at the past 3 years of horror film releases here’s how we faired:

Film Australia United States Pro Rata
The Devil Inside $1,663,222 $53,245,055 3.12%
Shark Night 3D $839,685 $18,872,522 4.45%
Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark $249,590 $24,042,490 1.04%
Paranormal Activity 3 $7,973,972 $104,007,828 7.67%
The Thing $1,046,536 $27,428,670 3.82%
Fright Night 3D $1,365,408 $18,298,649 7.46%
FInal Destination 5 $2,766,716 $42,575,718 6.50%
Insidious $859,758 $97,009,150 0.89%
Scream 4 $4,283,646 $97,037,610 4.41%
The Rite $986,133 $33,037,754 2.98%
Season Of The Witch $4,289 $24,823,283 0.02%
Devil $1,637,198 $33,583,175 4.88%
The Last Exorcism $1,235,709 $40,990,055 3.01%
Priest $671,131 $29,136,626 2.30%
Saw 3D $2,559,131 $45,670,855 5.60%
Paranomal Activity 2 $6,957,695 $84,752,907 8.21%
Let Me In $974,715 $12,134,420 8.03%
Resident Evil Afterlife $4,502,880 $60,128,566 7.49%
Piranha 3D $2,520,074 $25,001,532 10.08%
Legion $608,436 $40,168,080 1.51%
A Nightmare On Elm Street $2,906,453 $63,059,655 4.61%
The Wolfman $4,298,942 $61,937,495 6.94%
Daybreakers $2,448,050 $29,975,979 8.17%
Paranormal Activity   $8,632,448 $107,918,810 8.00%
Case 39 $333,925 $13,248,477 2.52%
Saw VI $2,512,398 $27,445,118 9.15%
Final Destination 4 $5,859,256 $66,436,248 8.82%
Sorority Row $686,888 $11,915,856 5.76%
Orphan $982,794 $41,573,740 2.36%
Drag Me To Hell $2,658,329 $42,057,340 6.32%
The Univited $1,457,239 $28,573,173 5.10%
Friday The 13th $1,196,048 $64,997,188 1.84%
The Unborn $2,170,912 $42,638,165 5.09%
My Bloody Valentine 3D $1,810,849 $51,545,952 3.51%
Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans $4,878,052 $45,802,315 10.65%
TOTAL $86,538,507 $1,611,070,456 5.37%
AVERAGES $2,472,529 $46,030,584 5.37%

All figures sourced from RENTRAK and IMDB.

As you can see horror generally performs at about half of expected pro rata with only 2 titles making their target – and if you removed the real blockbusters you can see that the genre as a whole is much softer here than stateside. That’s not to say that horror films shouldn’t be released, hells no, but it’s always good to be aware that contemporary mainstream horror releases since 2009 have, generally, under performed to U.S. pro rata expectations.

Maybe Aussies just aren’t as horror mad as the U.S.? That’s always been my personal assumption – being a horror fan that I am it’s intriguing to me that we don’t embrace as wholeheartedly. But this is great contemporary information to have when discussing horror in Australia – and always bear in mind that it’s no judgement on the quality of the films – just a measure of how they perform.

Let’s apply this to THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. Based on expected total grosses from the film in the U.S., which will see it finish at roughly $36m for life.

AUSTRALIA BOX EXPECTATION – $1,879,500 (at a pro rata average of 5.37%). It’s not a huge number.

Next stop – it’s a wide release so you need to date it somewhere where it can open and not have too much competition around it. (Remember too that the United States has already released so your window is closing for piracy)

So films in direct competition to it in the next 7 months (before it hits U.S. Blu Ray etc):

DARK SHADOWS, THE CHERNOBYL DIARIES, THE DARK KNIGHT, THE DICTATOR, LOCK OUT,  MEN IN BLACK 3, GET THE GRINGO, PROMETHEUS, THAT’S MY BOY, SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, THE BOURNE LEGACY, TOTAL RECALL, THE EXPENDABLES 2, BAIT, PREMIUM RUSH, NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH, COGAN’S TRADE, RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4.

A lot of these aren’t horror BUT they target the exact same market, releasing in the next 7 months and most of these are blockbuster releases going same day as U.S.. There’s really nowhere to go so the film won’t get annihilated before it goes to home entertainment overseas.

Then there is the sheer financial commitment to release THE CABIN IN THE WOODS theatrically to get enough market place cut through would be enormous in this dating corridor. You’d need north of 100+ screens to get that box office, then you need to market it and spend on walls of advertising to give it a profile. Does that number correspond with the box office expectation to make it profitable to release? I’d hazard a guess at no.

That’s my thoughts on it – ROADSHOW are doing right by the film. They’ll have it everywhere when it goes home entertainment bound – and it will go ballistic.