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Horror movies will dominate movie theaters from now until Halloween

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Kenneth Branagh stars as Hercule Poirot in 20th Century Studio’s “A Haunting in Venice.”
Disney | 20th Century Studios

Time to pair that pumpkin spice latte with some popcorn. Spooky movie season is officially here.

Starting Friday, movie theaters will have a steady stream of jump scares, creepy monsters and gore — and that’s great news for the box office.

As Hollywood grapples with dual labor strikes that restrict promotions for big blockbuster features, horror films could be the perfect balm. Fans of the genre aren’t as preoccupied with the star power behind the films, but rather how scary and bloody – and fun – they are.

“Horror movies have been a mainstay of cinema since its inception and have never lost their appeal particularly when presented in the communal environment of a darkened movie theater,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.

With smaller-than-average production budgets, these films are also often very lucrative for studios and don’t require massive box office receipts to be profitable.

“Horror films have an innate quality about them that doesn’t require the kind of traditional mass marketing footprint major franchises do in order to capture their target audience,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com.

Already in 2023, the horror movie genre has generated more than $600 million in domestic ticket sales, representing around 10% of the total box office in the U.S. and Canada, according to data from Comscore.

Top horror films this year include:

  • Paramount’s “Scream,” which generated $108 million domestically and $170 million worldwide on a $35 million budget
  • Universal’s “M3gan,” which took in $95 million in the U.S. and Canada and $180 million globally on a budget of $12 million
  • Sony’s “Insidious: The Red Door,” which tallied $82 million domestically and $186 million globally on a budget of $16 million.

“Today’s audiences love the thrills and escapist nature of horror films and the consistently solid box office numbers have ensured that studios and filmmakers will continue to produce a plentiful number of these films and movie theaters now and well into the future,” Dergarabedian said.

And audiences have plenty of frights to behold in theaters the coming weeks.

Upcoming horror movie releases

Sept. 1 — “All Fun and Games” (AGBO/Vertical Entertainment)

Sept. 8 — “The Nun II” (Warner Bros.)

Sept. 15 — “A Haunting in Venice” (Disney/20th Century Studios)

Sept. 22 — “It Lives Inside” (Neon/Brightlight Pictures)

Sept. 29 — “Saw X” (Lionsgate/Twisted Pictures)

Oct. 6 — “The Exorcist: Believer” (Universal/Blumhouse)

Oct. 13 — “Dear David” (Lionsgate/BuzzFeed Studios)

Oct. 27 — “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (Universal/streaming same day on Peacock)

While none of these upcoming horror films are expected to have explosive opening weekend box office numbers, they provide much-needed supplementary revenue to cinemas and collectively add to the overall annual haul. They will be even more important for theater companies such as AMC and Cinemark, not to mention Hollywood studios, as big movies such as “Dune: Part II” move to 2024.

Currently, “The Nun II” is expected to snare between $30 million and $45 million during its opening weekend on its way to as much as $95 million during its domestic run, according to forecasts from BoxOffice.com.

“A Haunting in Venice,” Kenneth Branagh’s third Agatha Christie adaptation, is on pace to deliver $11 million to $16 million during its debut and tally between $37 million and $57 million before it leaves theaters in the U.S and Canada.

And “Saw X,” the latest entry in the grisly torture horror franchise, is slated for $10 million to $15 million during its opening weekend and a final run of between $22 million and $35 million domestically.

Projections for “The Exorcist: Believer,” the first entry in a new trilogy, and video game adaptation “Five Nights at Freddy’s” were not immediately available. Notably, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” will follow the same distribution path as the last two installments in the Halloween franchise and will be available on Peacock the same day it arrives in theaters.

“At the end of the day, enjoying a good scare or two with an audience is as definitive of a theatrical experience as any other,” Robbins said.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.

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