Horror at the New Zealand Box Office in 2012 - 18th April 2011


Kia Ora and welcome to ScaryMinds first review of the previous year's dark genre at the box office here in New Zealand, which happened to be 2012. I'll run down the top ten grossing movies, starting with number ten and progressing to number one, though no prizes for guessing the top grossing movie of the year. Along the way I'll mention personal thoughts on the movies, how individual movies relate to the overall genre, and heck try not to get too depressed. Toward the end of the article I'll have a look at any Downunder flicks making some cash at the box office and try to draw some conclusions about how the genre went through 2012.

We had a downturn in dark genre releases in 2012 with only sixteen movies being released to the cinema, with of course the usual high volume going direct to disc. However the genre did score well with a number of movies making over a million, overall the box office was on the rise for the genre during the year though figures have been slightly distorted by a couple of big movies arriving. So a good year would be my call, though it's a worry that the number of releases getting cinema screens was down.

Coming in at number ten was Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, a Nicky Cage sequel almost no one was interested in start of year. Warner Bros decided on a mid March release giving the movie a solid enough 42 screens to play with. The movie earned a disappointing $150K over opening weekend, which got worse with a $299K final gross on the back of a 2.0 multiplier. Clearly the movie was getting bad word of mouth from those who caught the movie on opening weekend, and this impacted the final gross. There wasn't a lot of joy for Distributor Warner Brothers there, and considering this was their only dark genre release that charter for the year I have a feeling that they aren't going to be terribly interested in adding to their release schedule in 2013.

I caught the original movie in Sydney with one of my fellow ScaryMs reviewers back in the day and wasn't disappointed in what I got to view. It was never going to be one of my favourite movies of the year, but then again it avoided the sort of cluster of similar movies like Michael Bay's Transformers. Guess it might have worked better for the comic book fans than dark genre fans, though notably it was written off by the fanbois as a horror flick till it made some cash then they suddenly all changed their tunes. How I miss the BOM forums, so many idiots in a single place that reinforced your prejudicial thoughts of Americans. Anyway with movie two in 2012 I wasn't overly interested in catching up with it and it disappeared bloody quickly from cinemas. Have to admit I haven't bothered with the DVD either, has that even been released? I'm a bad movie commentator and deserve to be punished.

Hoyts released the drama The Grey early May on 52 screens for an adequate gross of $132K, which is pretty solid considering the movie lacks the normal shock tactics of Hollywood conveyor belt flicks. Actually put Sam Raimi or Joss Whedon in the credits and the Critics would have hyped up on excitement over the movie, the way of the modern horror world folks. Even Downunder Critics are lashing themselves unmercifully at either name appearing on the credits of whatever plastic movie they are rabbiting on about. The Grey managed a very solid 3.05 multiplier as word of mouth spread to eventually gross a respectably $401,374. The movie skewed toward an Adult audience, away from the dark genre's traditional teen hunting grounds, and found some traction with alternative demographics. Whether or not Liam Neeson sold the movie remains moot, there was a good buzz about things regardless with pretty solid weekly figures. Of note Joss Whedon's The Cabin in the Woods didn't get a cinema release in this Country, as the Distributors quite rightly recognised that the movie would tank. The Critics might need a new box of tissues when Whedon's name is mentioned, talk about your bandwagon, but the Punters, who have to spend actual dollars at the cinema aren't so easily fooled. Mind you for most Critics it pays to neon signpost your themes, as Whedon did in Cabin, otherwise you'll just confuse them, hello Leonard! Ironically when it comes to movies as a culture thing, the punters are generally better equipped to make a call than the Critics, who generally aren't the sharpest tools in the shed. Rant over kids, moving along, just wanted to get that up front.

I caught The Grey on DVD due to being in the Aussie hinterland, with the sole cinema in the region apparently boycotting anything that might be regarded as half decent dark genre. They certainly put on every crappy Boredwood cookie cutter, but kept away from the real heart of the genre where ever possible. Hope they go out of business. I'm not entirely sure I enjoyed the movie to be honest, the interaction between the plane crash survivors was interesting and worth dialling in for, but the whole CGI wolf thing was more amusing then threatening. I was reminded of an old movie where there's a plane crash in some desert and the survivors are threatened implausibly by a troop of baboons. Sorry no idea what that one was called. Anyways I kind of enjoyed the movie, but was not blown away by it, and certainly wouldn't have included it in my top ten horror flicks of the year, if I could be arsed writing one that is.

Fox released the wonderfully B grade titled Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter at the start of August and didn't do so in any half measure. The movie opened on 105 screens and returned a very solid $202,583 over the opening weekend. Surprisingly, given the movie sounds like something the Asylum would pump out, it managed a 2.57 multiplier delivering $520K in the process. The movie split the Reviewers, those able to get pass the premise were writing some nice things about the movie, not universal of course the movie has problems, but once again a sizeable section of the Critics assembly couldn't extract the carrot and go with the plan. The movie was all about selling an outrageous premise, and surprisingly it managed to do that for quite a few punters.

I got caught up in the adrenaline rush of this flick and didn't notice the inherent flaws till talking about the movie over a couple of brews later. One of those movies that tend to keep you entertained while you are watching, but which you forget as soon as you see your next flick. Honest Abe battling blood thirsty Vampires, hell yeah who doesn't rock out to that concept. No comment on the plot holes and mistakes the movie makes, I leave those to the nitpickers who have to pull the wings off flies in their ongoing attempts to prove they are better than the script Writers.

There were three major interest points in 2012 for the dark genre, and one of them was how leather clad Milla Jovovich's Alice would do going head to head with leather clad Selene as portrayed by Kate Beckinsale. Sony opened Resident Evil : Retribution in mid September on 50 screens, awakening a sizeable $359K result on the opening weekend. However the movie didn't really kick on with a 2.3 multiplier only delivering $710K at the end of the movie's run. This was never going to be enough to enable Milla to seriously threaten Kate at the box office, there can only be one leather clad heroine for the dark genre after all. Actually $710K is a pretty decent horror result in this Country, Kiwiland doing its bit to ensure a further movie is pumped out in due course.

While I'm not going to say this edition was as good as previous ones it kind of held my attention but never quite delivered on what I was hoping for. Previously the constant zombie threat has been enough to keep me rocking out, but this time the threat didn't seem as immediate somehow, or anywhere near the total anarchy previous movies wallowed in. The setup for mine was far too convoluted and never really got down to the business at hand. Nice segway into the previous, superior I think, movie however, and it did lay the ground work for what should be a rocking final instalment. Not entirely sure this series has the petrol in the tank to go beyond another movie, maybe two. Not the worse movie I saw in 2012, but for sure I'm not phoning it up and inviting it out for dinner anytime soon.

Back in early March Sony got the year shaking with Underworld Awakening, Kate Beckinsale back in the leathers after being absent for the third movie, and making immediate amends for her tardiness. The movie kicked off on 49 screens with a hot $359,289 opening weekend bow, which was translated via a 2.28 multiplier into a $818k result that was enough to lodge sixth position on the chart. Clearly vamp Kate battling lycans is more of a crowd favourite than Milla fighting zombies and corporate badies, go figure. What is interesting to yours truly is the Underworld franchise is taking names and kicking arse long after the first movie in the series was roundly blasted by Critics. Interestingly a lot of revision of reviews has gone down, and Awakening ironically has attracted exactly the same criticism as the original movie. Sorry pop culture icon, long may Kate kick it hardcore in this one.

Hey Kate in tight leather, I'm there like a big old fanboy hitting a Star Wars convention. Caught this one on opening weekend and was roundly entertained once again. About the only criticism I really had was the movie was clearly a middle entry in a story arc without it being given any room to breathe on its merits. Still considering the general lack of choices a minor quibble in the greater scheme of things, will be there opening weekend for the next movie folks.

Okay into the real money as the dark genre did managed to flex its muscles during 2012.

Surprisingly we're up to number four in the Paranormal Activity franchise considering all the movies have been found footage efforts made cheaply with various problems plaguing the individual movies to lesser or greater degrees. The Critics and Reviewers tore into the fourth movie like hyenas on a recently killed carcass, but come on no character development, are you for real! - have you people been watching the same movies I've been watching! There has been zero character development in any of them, it's all about found footage, don't you get the concept? Here's a camera recording what happened, nothing more, nothing less, it's not a traditional approach, hello have IQs dropped recently on the web! Showing Critics, including us who are more your Reviewer types, aren't universally adhered to Paranormal Activity 4 had a real strong opening weekend, delivering $410K from an opening 50 screens. On the back of a 2.55 multiplier, showing it wasn't all front end load, the movie galloped to a resounding $1.04 million vote of confidence in New Zealand. Considering these things cost $1.50 to make, Kiwiland alone probably sent the movie into profit. With similar results in other markets, only the Yanks seem influenced by Critics, the movie surged to a $138 million result worldwide, guaranteeing a fifth movie.

The whole team are suckers for this franchise, and yes I joined the crew in having a few bevvies prior to catching a screening on opening night. We pretty much got what we expected, slow build up, some scary scenes, and one hell of an ending that surpassed anything done since the first movie. I was high fiving people I didn't know in the cinema as the end credits rolled. While PA5 wasn't the best dark cinema I saw in 2012, it still managed to pack a punch, and by heck throw on a haunted house party with some bite. Will I be there for the fifth movie, hell are the Voorhees family anti camp counsellor! They really need to do something different with the next movie I think, there's only so much kitchen destruction you can take till you call into question Toby's house make over skills. Would like them to do something with the coven members next time up, perhaps add some explanation to what the heck is going on there.

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp dialled up the dark genre in 2012 with Burton making the movie Dark Shadows, based off the television show of the same name. Roadshow released the movie in mid May banking on Depp and Burton being able to repeat their Alice In Wonderland rampage on the box office. While not being as successful as Alice, Dark Shadows still managed to dial up $533K on opening weekend off 85 screens, eventually delivering a 2.99 multiplier for a very solid $1,592 total gross result. The Critics weren't enamelled with this one, 38% on the RT, but once again punters weren't bothering with their opinions as the movie rampaged to $236.5 million World Wide. Strangely Burton's other dark genre entry for the year, the far superior Frankenweenie, turned out to be a car wreck, proving conclusively that quality has nothing to do with box office results.

The trailers for this flick were enough to convince me that money at the box office would not be a solid investment. Eventually caught the movie on a video evening with the team and my initially thoughts were confirmed, Burton turned in a stinker. Dark Shadows had a bloated budget, a mess of a plot, and worse yet Depp phoned in his performance from the Caribbean. I was astonished at just how awful this movie really was and am calling it here and now one of the worse dark genre releases of 2012. What the hell were you thinking Burton?

Recently there have been three animated movies moving in dark genre circles. In September Sony released the first of these, Hotel Transylvania on a staggering 97 screens to a shockingly bad $200K. Things were not looking good, but the movie played to the low brow, and quite by plan in so doing delivered exactly what the sandpit demographics want in a movie, leading to a sensational 11.7 multiplier and a rock solid $2.35 million total gross. Surprisingly Critics weren't overly impressed with the RT delivering a 43% verdict, though no doubt our locals found it engrossing and a timeless story, or some such bollocks. I'm quite surprised the movie did this well considering the story line would seem to skew more toward girls rather than boys, maybe I'm underestimating that demographic?

Another one that slotted into the home DVD evening side of things, though I was flying solo on this one. I was quite surprised this wasn't a House of Mouse release, as the movie was so saccharine sweet that I had to keep a bucket next to the sofa while watching. The movie messages were belaboured and so obviously false that I'm left wondering how the hell Sony ever condoned the movie being released under their banner. Transylvania offered zero for adult viewers, no clever references to pop culture or other movies, so no doubt the bogans felt right at home, they didn't have to think. I much preferred the other two animated releases, Frankenweenie and ParaNorman, but then I'm most definitely not in the targeted demographic. It wasn't the worse cinematic crime of the year and did help in 2013's re-establishment of the dark genre as a force to be reckoned with.

One of the other major talking points of the year was just how the Alien prequel Prometheus would do, given the core fanbase has moved on in years but with Ridley Scott returning to the Space Jockey universe. Critics and Reviewers fell into two main camps, either they liked the movie but noted some flaws, or they were predestined to give the movie a bad review regardless of what Scott turned in. Overall however the vote of confidence was in with a 74% on the RT being indicative of the general mood, with the notable exception of some folk who were just going to hate regardless of the quality of the movie. Fox didn't muck around, they released the movie in early June on a wide 151 screens scoring a $928K opening weekend bow that really had people sitting up and taking notice. A solid enough multiplier of 2.8 indicated word of mouth was strong with the resulting $2.6 million total gross being a fair summation of the movie at the box office. Worldwide the movie achieved blockbuster status with a $406 million result that all but guarantees a sequel in a couple of years. Once again the Haters who showed a lot of arrogance over this one were proved to be in the minority of actual cinema attendees, pity more of the haters didn't actually catch the movie as they might have enjoyed themselves after extracting the carrot.

I actually caught the movie twice over opening weekend. Once in solo mode as I couldn't wait for the team to get together, and the second time with the ScaryMinds mob, which naturally involved beer and deep discussion. Absolutely loved the flick, but then I'm a simple guy who just dives into a movie and goes with the flow, only taking a breath after the ending credits to analysis what I've just seen. I didn't go in with high expectations so was enthralled as Ridley setup a completely Alien landscape, explained the Space Jockey and the Xenomorphs, and laid the ground work for the next instalment. Sure there were a few problems, but what movie is ever completely logical? Can guarantee the Timmy Cruise flick Oblivion release this weekend isn't going to receive the same level of micro deconstruction that Scott's movie got. I got a feeling a lot of people set out to hate on Prometheus before it was released, really the movie didn't tie into Alien 100%, about five minutes film time would resolve that in the next movie effectively derailing the typical smucks who want to big name themselves on the net without realising no one really cares. Like a lot of folk I had a good time with the movie, and was more than excited when I received the four disc Blu Ray release for Christmas. Can't wait for the next chapter, a movie exploring the whole how we came to be, who our real gods are, hell yeah sign me onboard that voyage. Actually thinking about it the Pseudo Intellectuals joined the Fundos in condemning this one, strange bedfellows.

Okay so no surprises that Twilight Saga: Breaking Wind Part 2 took out top spot. We all knew it was going to happen, we all feared it would happen, IQs dropped 20% due to the release of the movie, as day follows night. Hoyts opened the latest exercise in ripping off tween chicks in mid November, taking up 125 screens for an opening weekend bow of $2.24 million. Surprisingly, I had my fingers crossed it would be all front end load, the movie managed a 2.3 multiplier to lodge a $5.01 million vote of confidence on the final Twitard flick. Enough said, any more and I'll melt like the Wicked Witch of the West or something.

I've survived exactly one movie and five minutes of another movie in this franchise which was enough to prove conclusively that Hoyts are taking the piss with it. Worse example of pushing any old shite onto the big screen to fulfil the fantasies of a panting female demographic that I've been exposed to. Was never going to see this one, I've got better things to do with my life, like dunking my head in a vat of boiling oil.

Disappointing in 2012 were a couple of movies that should have done a lot better than they actual did. Tim Burton's Frankenweenie could only scrap together $216K, which is disappointing considering the flick is that once in a hundred art efforts in a ghetto genre. Guessing the mixture of traditional gothic aesthetics with a black and white approach didn't work for the modern teen audience who want CGI explosions and brain dead outings that plod through the same old swamp of ineptitude that the last dozen movies regurgitated ad nausea. Burton throw on his third animated outing in the dark genre, and as usual went with an eccentric approach that didn't find traction with modern audiences who simply want shallow movies as escapism rather than art of any shape and form, unless it involves musicals pretending to be art house that have been made 1,001 times before. Also disappointing was Paramount's The Devil Inside, a found footage flick that could only raise $151K from punters that normally lap up possession flicks. Admittedly I was originally swayed by internet opinion, once again from predominately brain dead teens who hate anything that tries to be different, but once I saw the movie I loved it. Okay so the ending is abrupt, hello found footage, which clearly isn't going to work for modern audience - once again something different and unexpected, but if you give the movie more than an attention deficient view then you'll find a whole bunch of things to like about the movie.

The local flag was flown by two movies that failed to really impact at the box office. Aussie shark flick Bait managed a total $83K gross from a reasonable 35 screen opening which I guess will be enough to get some disc action happening. I'm enjoying the Aussie attempt to justify their movie awards in the face of Bait's $40 million World Wide result, seems the Aussie Oscars are all about how much cash a flick makes rather than quality or any other meaningful measure. The Aussies had a mutual masturbation session over the pretty average The Sapphires, thumbing their noses at Bait, the excuse being The Sapphires hadn't opened in North America at the time. Well it has now and it bombed, Bait handed the Aussie Academy its arse with a rampage through Asian. New Zealand splatter comedy Fresh Meat get a decent 33 screen opening weekend and immediately bombed with a $28K result as the end credits rolled. Considering the movie is much better than the crap coming out of Hollywood, you have to wonder if there's something of a cultural cringe going down. You read it here first; the movie will be a cult classic once the wider horror audience becomes aware of it.

The year saw the expected movies do well, Breaking Wind 2, Prometheus etc, a decision on Kate versus Mila, and the continued relevance of the Paranormal Activity franchise as being the decades major horror franchise. It also naturally delivered a few disappointments, a whole murder of dark genre releases that didn't get to the cinema, and of course more than a boatload of asinine comments. Gorenography is following the Aussie trend of being a non-starter for ten, and thankfully a number of overhyped Hollywood poor to average flicks failed to make an impression in this part of the world. Overall even though the number of releases hitting the cinema was down it was still a strong year for the dark genre at the box office. I'm prepared to say that horror is in good shape in New Zealand at least with a bright outlook and more importantly even more local movies in various stages of production. I'm seeing a bright future heading into 2013 and am excited about some of the movies headed our way. Catch down the popcorn stand during the coming year, it's going to be a blast.