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3 Top Horror Movies That Changed Filmmaking: Beyond Carrie's Dull Opening Weekend

Eric Bleeker, CFA
October 20, 2013

Carrie is expected to post an opening weekend box office of just $17 million, good for just third place at the movies behind Gravity and Captain Phillips. As I wrote about yesterday, the movie won't be a total bomb, but it will be the weakest showing from a horror film in the weekends before Halloween since 2001. 

Weekend Box Office Estimates
Movie Projected Weekend Drop from Last Weekend
Gravity $31.03 million 28%
Captain Phillips  $17.3 million 33%
Carrie  $17 million New
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2  $10.1 million 27% 
Escape Plan  $9.8 million  New

Source: Box Office Mojo

Carrie has been described as a "woefully unnecessary" remake of the 1976 classic. That will happen in the horror genre, where remakes and sequels are the norm. Carrie was slotted into the pre-Halloween timeframe to fill a vacancy left when Paranormal Activity 5 was pushed back to 2014 after the last movie in the series lost momentum. 

Yet, there are plenty of ground-breaking horror films. Let's take a look at three movies in the broader horror genre that reshaped filmmaking. 


Hitting theaters in 1975, Jaws-mania swept the country and ensured millions were afraid to even dip a toe into the ocean. The film wasn't always a surefire hit -- its production cost ballooned from a budget of $3 million to $12 million in actual spend. The production debacle threatened to end the up-and-coming career of its director, a relative unknown at the time, Steven Spielberg. 

What's fascinating about Jaws is that it established how modern studios position their blockbusters. Jaws was advertised across national television, something Hollywood had shied away from as too expensive. I've seen estimates of $700,000 to $3.5 million being spent promoting Jaws. That's anywhere from a fraction of the production cost to about 30%. 

When you consider that the rough rule of thumb today in Hollywood is for marketing budgets to be half the cost to produce a film, it's stunning that Jaws' marketing was such a risk.

Yet, so much of how Hollywood looks today is because of Jaws. Beyond creating the modern television-focused marketing campaign, Jaws also was instrumental in pushing blockbusters to a busy summer movie season. 

On its 78th day in theaters, Jaws would become the highest grossing domestic film of all time. That record would fall two years later to Star Wars, but Jaws would remain immensely popular in future theater rereleases. It has racked up about $470 million at the global box office throughout the years. 

The Exorcist

If you Google "scariest movie ever made," it'll be hard to find a list that doesn't prominently feature The Exorcist. The movie was shocking in its initial release, pushing the boundaries of fear past what the previous decade's Rosemary's Baby had achieved. 

The Exorcist also became a box office sensation, seeing several rereleases. Across its lifetime box office, the film has made $442 million globally. That's especially impressive as the movie was released back in 1972 and was rated "R," limiting its potential audience size.