Horror at the Australian Box Office in 2013 - 22nd January 2014
The dark genre was to a certain degree under siege in 2013 with remakes and paranormal romance threatening to derail the gains made in 2012. For sure War World Z was finally arriving on our screens and James Wan was sending two movies our way, but other than those treats things were looking pretty bare in the horror cupboard. The only real light on the horizon was a bunch of Indie movies being released during the year on DVD. The big question that reigned in our offices was how come we were getting no Paranormal Activity movies in 2013 but were getting two movies from the franchise in 2014. Well okay we were also concerned about the lack of serious horror fare, with Hollywood still not understanding the horror demographics.
There were some surprises in 2013, thank you James Wan, but equally there were some disappointments as a couple of movies flopped heavily. Local releases were few and far between with 100 Bloody Acres being the only cinema release of note. The total number of movies released to cinema improved over 2012 and 2011, but still didn't herald a full out assault on the cinema. Icon climbed back in the ring with two cinema releases but were overshadowed by Roadshow who released four movies into the market. Once again the majors were well represented but the third tier Distributors gave the genre a wide berth. Most notably Monster Pictures contented themselves with straight to DVD releases, perhaps still licking their wounds after a couple of run ins with the censorship board in previous years.
I'll be covering the top ten releases, most of which I've actually seen, will touch base with the local releases, and note any trends emerging during the year. 2014 looks to be a bit light on to be honest but I'll touch bases with what looks good in the coming year as well. Let's get it on, we have a lot to cover.
Please note all figures are in Australian dollars and only include box office earnings while the individual movie was in the top twenty. Most movies would have gone on to earn a bit more, though rounding my cover that extra earn.
As expected Word War Z took out top spot for the year, but distributor Paramount must have been disappointed the movie couldn't cross the blockbuster barrier of $20 million. The movie kicked off mid June on 464 screens and managed an outstanding $6 million bow on opening weekend. A very solid 3.1 multiplier showed support for the movie was strong, however as noted not strong enough to really deliver a knockout blow. Considering that there was a feeling amongst dark genre fans that the movie wasn't going to realise the book the result was pretty much down to the general public rushing out to catch Brad Pitt. There wasn't universal belief in the movie from Critics and Reviewers, but as usual with Australian audiences no was listening and World War Z was rushed by both genre fans and non-fans alike.
Only a couple of us caught this one, the idea of Brad Pitt in a zombie movie was as about as appetising as Tom Cruise in a vampire movie. The production problems were well known with re-shoots and Directors storming off the set, so we were not expecting a classic by any means. Okay the movie deviated from the book markedly, the book is far cooler, but both of us were at least entertained and in agreement that we'd catch the invariable sequel when it gets made. Dark genre supporters take wins where they can get them, admittedly a minor bump with Word War Z not making blockbuster status, so two thumbs up, hopefully someone can improve in a future outing in what is likely to become a franchise. The only real problem I had with this movie was the ending that simply summed up Hollywood's inability to get things right when it comes to dark genre fare. Also I wonder who had the idea that zombies should move like insects? That person should be taken out the back and shot.
In mid July Warner Brothers unleashed the first of James Wan's two movies for the year, The Conjuring. Clearly the Bros weren't expecting this one to rock the house down as they only booked 135 screens in an average horror release schedule for this market. The movie duly bowed to a staggering $1.8 million on the opening weekend and generated one hell of a strong multiplier in 4.95 to deliver a completely unexpected $8.8 million. A more solid release schedule could have pushed the movie into breakout hit territory, but still excellent result that underlines James Wan's ability to kick the odd goal. It should be noted that the movie was a typical ghost story that delved into a spot of demonology; hence it had far wider appeal to non-genre fans than other horror flavours, ghost stories being semi respectable even for Critics with carrots up their dates.
The whole team tromped down to the multiplex to catch this movie, but I have to say there was some convincing needed as the trailers rabbited on about the Warrens, see what I did there, and how this was based on a true story. Generally any movie claiming to be based on a true story is likely to be complete bollocks and stink up the cinemas. Clearly the advertising campaign worked with the gullible, and judging on the results we can expect a franchise to generate itself, no doubt culminating in yet another Amityville movie. Actually some numb nuts is thinking about making a movie based on the Annabelle doll, so expect another horror franchise to be wrung by the neck till it screams. Surprisingly we had a good time with this flick, the hand clapping thing was cool, though a couple of people were concerned by a few digressions from the plot and the overtly bullshit true happening claims. I'm a sucker for a haunted house story so was rocking on to the paranormal activity in the movie, though I kept being taken out by the absolute lies being paraded as truth, Ed Warren is not nor ever has been a Vatican approved exorcist as the movie claimed, for example. I would have enjoyed the movie a whole lot more if they didn't keep the Warren propaganda train rolling. General consensus was the next movie is probably a DVD hire rather than a cinema excursion, no faith in the Studio system y'all.
In early February Paramount took a risk and released yet another retelling of a fairy tale in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. The movie kicked in well after the titular characters escape from the Witch's candy house in the forest with the viewer discovering the duo are now in their twenties battling the forces of evil. Paramount had some faith in the movie and opened it on 7th February on 334 screens to an excellent bow of $2.2 million. A very solid multiplier of 3.6 delivery $8 million to Paramount and yet another surprise result. The movie mixed in action, a kick arse female lead, and a slice of romance to appeal beyond the narrow confines of horror geekdom.
I was OS and had a Saturday afternoon spare so caught the movie before it was unleashed in Australia, video night ahoy for the rest of the crew on this one as apparently I was the only person who caught up with it. I was expecting to take one for the team but surprisingly had a good time with the flick. Okay you had to put your brain in neutral and go with the flow, but there were some way past cool ideas and scenes. Yes I had a good time; no I wouldn't purchase the DVD for my collection. Fingers crossed this doesn't herald in another glut of fairy tale outings, there's only so many movies featuring Vanilla pouting away like a tween chick who didn't get her tickets to the latest boy band one can take. I'm still giggling over the fairest of them all, I mean in what alternative universe! But hey I digress, let's get this fandango back on track with the next movie.
Dropping into fourth spot the obligatory yearly animated horror outing Paranorman managed to stave off attacks from the religious right and the forces of conservatism. Opening early January the movie would have disappointed Universal with a $938K bow from an initial wide 360 screen release strategy. However the movie surprisingly showed a decent pair of legs and managed to generate a 4.1 multiplier for a very solid $3.9 million result. Seems the forces of moral self righteousness were concerned about a single line in the movie, a major character turns out to be gay, rather than the zombies, witches, and mass destruction being shown. Draw your own conclusions from that, mine are we have narrow minded homophobic dickheads running the country for the Rednecks and Fundos.Once again I took a bullet on this one but again was actually entertained. Okay the movie is definitely aimed somewhat weirdly at the sandpit crowd, there were a few kids traumatised during the session I attended, but there was enough of a story and comedic elements to keep me bopping along like a pre-teen on a sugar rush. I also got a lot of value from the outrage being shown from some quarters of the internet community who pretty much have their heads up their arses when it comes to enlightenment. The movie did tick all the boxes for the ankle biters, except for showing dead people and the like, though you have to love the little bastards screaming, calling future horror fans there.
Roadshow managed four entries in the top ten of 2013 as they vainly sort a replacement for the Twilight movies that had proven hugely successful in prior years. Their highest placed movie came in at number five as The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones managed to at least attract a teen chick demographic. The movie opened 19th August on 230 screens and bowed to a respectable $1.6 million. A 2.4 multiplier did deliver $3.8 million, but considering the size of the demographic Roadshow was appealing to that must have been a large disappointment. Looking at the trailers the movie was geared to tween and young teen females, which was a bit of a mistake as the Twilight franchise aimed to include sections of the adult female demographics, in something of a surprise. Roadshow and the U.S Studio miscalculated the appeal of this movie and ultimately paid the price. Will we get a sequel?
I actually caught this one while writing this review of the year's box office, and no not even the chicks involved in the site were interested in watching it. I was just shocked at how derivative it was, Constantine is the least of the sources blatantly exploited to bring this mismatch of ideas together. Guess the movie might work for tween chicks, the vampires don't sparkle however, but for anyone else it's overly melodramatic and actually pretty terrible. The box office result pretty much sums up the limited appeal of the movie, while technically it's superior to Twilight in most facets, the actual plot simple lathers on surface level cookie cutter ideas that you have probably seen 100 or so times previously.
Vin Diesel brought the rights to the franchise that made a star of him and joined forces once again with Director David Twohy to produce a third movie, Riddick. Roadshow distributed Downunder and assigned 186 screens on opening weekend. The movie bowed to a solid enough $1.3 million result, but a 2.6 multiplier consigned the total gross to $3.4 million. Now that's a good result for a dark genre release and I'm thinking the second movie in the franchise, The Chronicles of Riddick, did some damage to the name, so Riddick was more about trying to win back fans of the original movie, Pitch Black, rather than expand the fan base. Overall a good result, that could have been better, but definitely setting the stage for a solid result for a fourth movie.
A couple of us charged the cinema to catch a screening of Riddick and besides both of us feeling the movie was pretty much a retread of Pitch Black we had good fun with the film. Riddick remains an engaging anti-hero, the creature effects were of the normal high standard, and the plot rocked on. Added bonus for us, in one of those geeky moments, was Starbuck herself Katee Sackhoff holding down a major role. The agreement was that we would definitely catch the next movie in the series. One of the surprises of the year for mine, a movie that recaptured the power of the first film, things are looking up for this franchise and star Vin Diesel.
Icon slipped into the top ten with the regrettable Warm Bodies, a movie that I hold myself personally responsible for. A few years back I made a joke online that things wouldn't end with sparkling vampires, we'd also get zombie love, with pieces decaying and falling off. From memory I think I implied that Kristen Stewart aka Vanilla could have held down the zombie role without changing her acting style. As horror tropes tell us, be careful what you wish for. Warm Bodies opened mid April on a fairly wide 186 screens but bowed to a low $976K. A 3.5 multiplier delivered a total gross of $3.4 million, well below Icon's anticipated earnings. Helping the movie were a number of sites, looking at you Arrow, who waxed lyrical about the flick as they put their snouts deeper in the Boredwood trough and refused to give a fair dinkum review. Sorry if you are trying to be a warts and all horror site, then supporting crappy rom-com movies is akin to selling out, even worse taking the fans with you. As a few writers pointed out during 2013 the number of horror sites that are now pushing non-horror movies shows an alarming upwards trend as the Distributors cotton on to the fact that fans will buy anything in the horror genre.
For the purpose of this article a couple of us took a few stiff drinks and hired the flick. A zombie rom-com, yeap your worst nightmares are realised, this one makes Twilight seem like a half decent fright flick. Besides numerous plot holes, poor to pathetic acting, and family friendly messages that would make the folk over at the House of Mouse cringe, the movie simply didn't sell the concepts. Who ever made the decision to distribute this one at Icon deserves to be taken out the back and horse whipped to be honest. Our verdict was we wasted three bucks hiring this mess, fingers cross there's no attempt at a sequel.
Coming in at eight spot was the fifth instalment of the Scary Movie franchise. Critics were roundly in agreement this movie would tank, and hence would have been surprised when the movie defied the odds to produce a respectable result. Roadshow opened Scary Move mid-April on 159 screens, showing some optimism, and were rewarded with a bow of $1.2 million. A 2.7 multiplier deliver a very satisfying $3.4 million result for the Distributor, and in the process underscored 2013 being a reasonably good year for the dark genre. As regular readers will be aware I'm nearly always as happy as Jason Voorhees at a Camp Counsellor retreat when Critics fall on their arses with predictions, so sported a wide grin with the World wide results for this flick.
A couple of us caught up with the movie in central Auckland one Saturday arvo prior to going to the pub for numerous beers and a feed. There was some light laughter from the audience but no outright howls of glee. I had a grin on my dial in a couple of places but overall was left with the impression that a return of the Wayan clan is well overdue for this franchise as the humour in movie five felt stale and done to death. Increasingly this franchise looks like a sheltered workshop for Actors who haven't made it or who are on a downward spiral, looking at you Lindsay Lohan, leaving the audience short changed. At least the flick was better than that A Haunted House bollocks. While not the best horror comedy of the year it was certainly better than the Critics were claiming, they really should extract the carrot from their collective arses while focusing on the dark genre.
Showing Roadshow were definitely in the hunt for a paranormal romantic hit in 2013, Beautiful Creatures had a February release as the Distributor crossed their fingers and hoped for the best. Hell Twilight worked, the feeling must have been tween chicks and dopey moms would suck up anything with a bit of forbidden romance in it. Roadshow went with a massive 228 screens and promoted the bollocks out of the flick but got it so very wrong with the opening weekend bow only delivering $1.2 million. A 2.3 multiplier indicated some support but not great word of mouth, still a $2.8 million total earn was respectable, just a lot less than expected. Roadshow may want to rethink their paranormal romance strategy, Twilight was a phenomenon that may not be repeatable. Indications are the PR books are dropping in demand, expect the movies to follow that development, until the next big franchise arrives to have us all face palming once again.
I completely missed this one, there's only so many crap movies you can watch each year before you burn out and I had enough logged for 2013 already. I have to be honest on this movie; everyone caught the trailers and simply said no. Plastic Actors hamming their way through regrettable plots that we had all seen before with a subtext of forbidden romance, frack me insert your paranormal creature of choice. I'm expecting a rewrite of The Exorcist to slip in somewhere with a Priest falling in love with a demon next, actually what am I doing, some knob will have hit their word processer as soon as they read that. Insert mass face palming, die half arsed paranormal romances, simply die.
Rounding out the top ten for 2013 was surprisingly The World's End which was the first of the Cornetto trilogy to make a sizeable impact. Universal released the movie on 224 screens at the start of August and would have been disappointed with the $1 million result the movie achieved over the opening weekend. Wright, Pegg, and Frost have never been that bankable in this market as the humour goes over the head of the Bogans, and have hence not achieved the results that they really deserved. A 2.3 multiplier did achieve parity for the movie with a $2.5 million result, but somewhat disappointing nevertheless.
It's a requirement of being on staff here that you catch each and every Simon Pegg genre movie, so naturally right across the Downunder territories people marched on their local cinemas to see if the third movie matched the first two. For mine the trilogy is pretty much Shaun, Hot Fuzz, and then World's End but a couple of the team put World's End much higher. Anyways everyone agreed it was a fitting end to the trilogy and a damn fine movie that didn't take itself overly seriously. One of the cool movies of 2013 that did what it needed to do, which was basically just to entertain the audience. Definitely another for the DVD collection on release.
Local movies were a bit thin on the ground with only a few gaining cinema release, and pretty much they bombed quicker than Tony Abbott's approval rating. The remake of Patrick was hyped like the second coming of Pink, and then proceeded to car wreck as locals showed they had no interest in remakes, particular remakes of dated concepts like this movie. Apparently the movie makers are now considering remaking Fair Game, clearly delusion runs deep in some quarters of Australian dark genre circles. About the only local movie to make good was 100 Bloody Acres which had a very limited cinema run but made every post a winner with it. Another year that left the ScaryMinds team perplexed as to why Australians rush mediocre Hollywood releases but shun very solid local efforts. Even more perplexing is the decision on cinema release for some of the local releases, insanity is clearly rife in the decision making process.
Naturally while there were highs in 2013 there were also a lot of lows, as certain movies disappointed expectations. Carrie was expected to really bring home the bacon but pretty much bombed for Sony. There was a lot of support around the trailers, personally I thought the casting of the fabulously good looking Chloe Grace Moretz in the titular role was a mistake - Carrie is not meant to be good looking y'all, but this didn't translate to tickets sold. Seems remakes have done their dash with Australian audiences as the last few have gone down quicker than the ratings for Master Chef. Similarly Insidious: Chapter 2 failed to gain the expected audience the first movie indicated was there. James Wan had a miss with this movie in Australia with Distributor Sony left scratching their head wondering what went wrong. Clearly the first movie wasn't as widely liked as we all thought it was. Strike three for Sony in 2013 was the bumbling release schedule for the remake of Evil Dead. For no apparent reason the Distributor decided on a ridiculous five screen opening weekend, got caught out by the support for the movie, and then couldn't grab enough additional screens to really catch up with demand. A lot of the regions were crying out for this movie, but disappointingly Sony failed to recognise the market. The remake of Sam Raimi's classic failed to launch really but fans kept on supporting it through a limited campaign. What could have been! Unfortunately this could well mean Sony being gun shy of horror releases in 2014.
There were some obvious trends in 2013 that underlined where the horror genre is going box office wise as the decade heads to the midpoint. Remakes and sequels didn't achieve the breakout numbers some Distributors thought they would. Both Carrie and Evil Dead didn't bother the top ten, though as noted Sony dropped the ball on the later movie. Roadshow and Icon were desperate to find the next paranormal romance blockbuster, but failed to understand that Twilight was an event and not a game changer. And finally the bloody end of the market fell away with You're Next being the only movie of this ilk to sneak into the charts in 2013. Thankfully efforts from the over rated Rob Zombie and Eli Roth failed to launch, with some truly woeful results being achieved, excuse me while I snigger.
Looking ahead there is going to be a drop off in the number of dark genre releases in 2014 with very little to no chance of a blockbuster. Things kick off on the 23rd with Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones which could spin out a $1.2 million opening bow leading to around $2.8 total gross, assuming the movie gets wide release. In February the local horror industry should get a shoot in the arm with Wolf Creek 2 likely to scare up $3.4 million total. But from there it's not looking good for a decent year. The two big Si-Fi orientated dark genre outings Godzilla and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes should hold the middle of the year together, but with Paranormal Activity 5 the only decent, fingers crossed, late release the final quarter of 2014 could be diabolic. There are a number of movies that haven't been scheduled as yet, see below, so hopefully we will get a few more releases to the big screen. Please note the schedule below was correct as of publication but is likely to change as movies bomb in North America, looking at you Devil's Due, or a Distributor has a rush of blood to the head and goes with additional releases.
Personally I'm looking forward to Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, trailers look solid, Wolf Creek 2, oh hell yes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and Paranormal Activity 5, every odd numbered movie in the franchise is worth a visit for mine. I'm hoping for some surprises as the year unfolds but am not betting on anything coming out of the blue to do a Conjuring in 2014.
Not Yet Scheduled