From Blair Witch Project to The Exorcist: The most profitable horror movies


1 of 22Attribution: Paramount Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures/Universal

Once upon a time, in a bygone era, people felt comfortable leaving the house to watch a movie in theatres without fears of contracting or spreading a deadly virus.

There were unexpected hits and some painful misses. But through the highs and lows, there was at least one genre that reliably drew audiences: horror.

For the most part, it didn’t matter if scary movies were good or bad. Something about the communal experience of getting spooked was enough to ensure people would turn out in droves. And studios have long been banking on the business of horror because their relatively low budgets almost guarantee outsized returns.

These movies often get away with minuscule price tags because they don’t rely on special effects and actors agree to work for scale with the promise of future profits and back-end deals.

“Horror movies don’t make as much revenue to become profitable,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore. And even better for studios, he says, “it doesn’t take a lot of money to convincingly scare people.”

Many truly terrifying movies cost under $US10 million ($14.2 million), chump change compared to budgets for superhero blockbusters or sequels in popular franchises.

With Halloween around the corner, there’s no better time to watch spine-chilling thrillers or gory slasher films. In honour of the spooky holiday season, Variety crunched some numbers to determine the most profitable horror movies based box office returns compared to their budget. The list assesses films purely as a ratio of worldwide grosses to the production budget, but doesn’t include marketing fees, distribution costs or back-end deals for major stars.

Check out the most profitable horror movies of all time.


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