When we think of Hollywood movies making big money, our thoughts typically go toward big action films like superhero movies that have extraordinarily high budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars. There’s also a lot of marketing that gets involved with those types of movies, which can double the budget in some cases. Filmmakers have found over the past 20 years or so, though, that you can make a ton of money by shooting horror films.
Horror films turn out huge profits compared to their budget for the most part. After all, you don’t have to use much CGI in a lot of these horror films. With most of them having dark tones, the setting and the lighting is also a small expense. Add in the fact that big name actors who make massive paydays tend to avoid horror films in the first place, and you can shoot a good horror movie for less than $1 million.
“The Blair Witch Project” is the perfect example of making an extreme profit. The film’s budget was only $60,000. It only took eight days to film the “found footage” horror movie, and most of the movie was just the actors walking around and acting scared. The viral marketing that took place helped “The Blair Witch Project” become a must-see for moviegoers, and the box office numbers backed that up. All in all, “The Blair Witch Project” made nearly a quarter billion dollars in ticket sales.
Since then, there have been plenty of instances where smaller budgeted horror films earn record setting profits. The highest grossing film of the horror genre was “It” when it was released in 2017, becoming the first horror to hit the $700 million worldwide mark. For a horror film, “It” actually had a high budget at $35 million, but it was an intellectual property that many were familiar with. The great reviews and word of mouth for “It” pushed it to new heights.
Other examples of movies that had budgets of just a couple of million include “Annabelle” and “Paranormal Activity”. The latter of the two had a budget even lower than “The Blair Witch Project” with $15,000. At the box office, “Paranormal Activity” earned nearly $200 million, and has spawned several sequels since its inception to become one of the highest profited franchises ever.
So if you’re new into filmmaking and want to get your foot in the door, you can impress a studio with a low budget horror movie. They hardly fail, and even when they do, they still don’t lose studios a lot of money. Blockbuster directors like James Gunn (“Guardians of the Galaxy”), Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings”) and Sam Raimi (“Spider-Man”) all started in the B-horror movie genre, and haven’t looked back since.