So the Saw franchise just released the first trailer for its eighth installment, Jigsaw. Yes, that’s right, the Saw franchise now has the same number of entries as the Fast & Furious series in three less years of existence. That is nothing short of amazing.
Did you know that the Saw franchise has pulled in around $875 million at box offices worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo‘s numbers, against an average production budget of just $9.5 million? Lionsgate surely did, which is why they’ve been pumping out these factory-made installments for 13 years. That’s a testament to Saw‘s genius not as films, but as consumable products that don’t cost studios a dime.
While the film community scrutinizes every decimal point on the box office returns for summer’s superhero blockbusters and Academy Awards hopefuls, the horror genre has quietly been churning out some of the most profitable films in the industry recently.
Jordan Peele’s Get Out, made for a measly $4.5 million, banked $252.4 million for Universal. Sony, which has been at the bottom rung of the studio wars in recent years, crushed last summer with Don’t Breathe ($157.1 million off a $9.9 million budget). Warner Bros.’ couldn’t care less what you think about the DC Extended Universe because The Conjuring franchise is absolutely raking as did 2016’s Lights Out. The list goes on and on. Sure, these movies actually need to be good — always easier said than done — but the blueprint is there.
These days, studios are overly concerned with tentpole IPs. The thinking is that if you don’t have a James Bond, Harry Potter, Jedi, Superhero, King Kong/Godzilla or Vin Diesel and The Rock driving really fast cars, you can’t hang with the big boys. Long-term, yeah, you probably want a BIG franchise in there somewhere. But in the short-term, the horror genre offers a respite from the overly expensive and risky blockbuster model.
Perhaps newer studios like Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures should focus on producing well-made smaller movies in this mold. Finding the next Peele or James Wan could set you up for consistent profitability while you continue searching for the next Hunger Games.
Horror may not be the prestige genre that comes to mind when you normally think of Hollywood, but it could very well be the most sustainable small-scale business model in Tinseltown.