Lights Out premiered this weekend, and while it didn’t take the top slot, it certainly proved to have franchise potential.
The film, developed from a creepy short film of the same name, followed in the proverbial footsteps of The Purge: Election Year, which has already multiplied its budget many times over in actual gross.
Premiering at No. 4, director Eric Heisserer’s suspense-driven PG-13 horror movie was shot for just $4.9 million and had a meager marketing campaign.
Nevertheless, strong reviews and a busy week at the box office led to it almost quadrupling its budget with an opening weekend finish of $29.9 million worldwide, according to the numbers at Box Office Mojo.
The Lights Out premiere comes approximately one month after the latest entry in The Purge trilogy proved that franchise still has potential for other films.
(The Purge: Election Year has grossed around $90 million worldwide — nine times its $10 million budget).
While Lights Out went lighter on blood and gore, targeting general audiences with its fear-of-the-dark mentality, it used a similar approach to the structure — simple setup, great concept, strong but not particularly well-known cast, and a micro-budget for an A-list film.
Before watching lights out vs. after watching lights out pic.twitter.com/cs4xLxj3sy
— Rin (@Ryan26Bones) July 24, 2016
Many horror movies of 2016, and over the last few years, have gone to smaller theatrical releases and same-day video on demand. It’s rarer for the genre to get a wide national release.
But Lights Out defied this with a release of close to 3,000 screens based largely on its general appeal and its critical strength.
The film is currently certified “Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, boasting a 77 percent rating on 97 total reviews.
Critics like Peter Travers of Rolling Stone have been able to find fault with the film, but ultimately see it as effective at what it sets out to do — scare its audience to death.
“Predictable stuff,” Travers writes, adding that it is “energized by some spiffy scare effects and actors who perform well beyond the call of fright-house duty.”
Teresa Palmer has also been getting a lot of kudos from top critics like Brad Wheeler of Globe and Mail, who notes, “There are a few inconsistencies with the scary bits, but the script is rich, and having Teresa Palmer as a bad*** adult daughter with commitment issues — typically a male role — is refreshing.”
What the success of Lights Out proves more than anything is this.
— SCREAM MAGAZINE (@ScreamHorrorMag) July 24, 2016
Horror is one of the few genres where a solid film can be made and widely distributed, find its audience, and gross a truckload of money without ever topping the box office charts.
It’s unlikely you’ll see it aspire to the No. 1 slot in weeks two and beyond, but at this point, it doesn’t have to. A truckload for the horror genre can be less than $50 million due to the simplicity of bringing the ideas to film.
They are more concept-driven more than big star- and effects-driven.
While it is unlikely that you’ll see horror back down from its commonly used “same day as theaters” VOD debut, there is a precedent that it could be with the right script and a talented enough crop of actors.
But what do you think, readers?
Are horror films back from the dead when it comes to big screen time, or is the success of films like Lights Out just exceptions? And do you think there will/should there be a Lights Out 2? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Image via New Line Cinema]