The Purge horror series is probably not one of the first that you look to when thinking of the iconic successes of the genre.
It’s far more likely that iconic characters, such as Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, Jigsaw, and Michael Myers jump out at you.
The fact that there isn’t one monstrous character that the films can attach themselves to, but rather a terrifying “system” is probably why these films don’t come up first in conversation.
But if you’re looking at the box office numbers, especially the numbers of The Purge: Election Year, it’s clear that Universal is doing something right and that viewers will be seeing more films in The Purge series.
That’s because for week ending July 16, this third entry in the saga has grossed 15 times its $10 million budget.
Looking at the progression of these films, it is clear they have touched a nerve with modern audiences. The first film finished its run with $89 million worldwide on a budget of just $3 million, according to the numbers at Box Office Mojo.
It was followed a year later by The Purge: Anarchy, which tripled the original film’s budget, but also delivered a higher gross at $111 million worldwide.
The Purge: Election Year was okayed for a $10 million budget, and as of Friday’s receipts, it had brought in over $146 million worldwide.
Proportionally, this isn’t quite the return on investment of the original’s 3,000 percent multiplier, but it is a marked improvement over the second film.
With The Purge, Universal took an alternative approach to episodic horror storytelling. They did not try to tell an ongoing story centered on one specific character (or a handful of characters).
Favorite Scene From The Purge:Election Year pic.twitter.com/xJIdH0kJ8t
— TRAPLOLOLO (@IAmKelo_) July 12, 2016
Many could argue that’s where Halloween fell short with the nonsensical Laurie Strode drama. Regarding Jason and Freddy, the characters were too simple on their surface to sustain longform narrative storytelling, at least in the confines of a 90-minute film.
Realizing this, Universal poured more effort into developing The Purge universe, and it’s paying off.
Comparing it to the unholy triumvirate — Jason, Freddy, Michael — it has produced a phenomenal rate of return, with around $115 million per film (so far) on an average budget of just around $7 million.
That means, on average, The Purge films are grossing over 16 times their budgets with no signs of slowing down.
How did Friday the 13th compare? While the series has done better when adjusted for inflation, it has also been the benefactor of 12 films. And if you add up 11 of those films — excluding the Freddy vs. Jason crossover — the unadjusted for inflation gross totals right around $330 million.
The Purge is already at $346 million on just three films.
Same thing with A Nightmare on Elm Street, which boasts seven films and a remake excluding FvJ. That total is right around $337 million unadjusted.
As for Halloween, it fared a little better with an unadjusted gross of $341 million across its 10 films (counting the two remakes).
This is all great news for Universal if it hopes to continue making The Purge into a profitable horror series.
The keys to success will likely be to not deviate from the current formula. Don’t throw the weight behind one character or group of characters.
Instead, keep the stories isolated within a central world. Keep the budgets low, the suspense high, and the kills gruesome.
If Universal chooses to keep future Purge films in the $10 million to $15 million range, then it could continue to see exponential returns on its investment and a horror series that moves well past the seven- to eight-film thresholds of popularity of its rival horror franchises.
But what do you think, readers?
Is The Purge here to stay?
[Image via Universal, The Purge: Election Year]