Discussion: Are Audiences Getting Tired of the Supernatural?


supernatural-horrorDeliver Us from Evil opened at the start of the 4th of July holiday weekend. To date, it has grossed $15 million since opening Wednesday, July 2nd, but box office analysts are focusing their targets on the film's $9.5 million weekend gross and taking fire. Understandable. That's a pretty weak weekend performance. It was up against the new comedy Tammy and holdovers likes Transformers22 Jump Street and How to Train Your Dragon. If you recall, Deliver Us from Evil was pushed up from its original 2015 release date because Sony was so confident in the film that it thought Deliver could earn some big bucks akin to The Conjuring's mid-summer success last year.

Regardless of the quality of Deliver Us from Evil, I honestly think the film would have had a tough go of it at the box office because, more or less…audiences are getting supernatural fatigue.

This year we've seen four other major supernatural releases open to middling or poor box office numbers. Take a look:

  • Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (Opening weekend: $18.3 million / Final domestic: $32.4 million – a low performance by this franchise's standard)
  • Devil's Due (Opening weekend: $8.3 million / Final domestic: $15.8 million)
  • Oculus (Opening weekend: $12 million / Final domestic: $27.6 million)
  • The Quiet Ones (Opening weekend: $3.8 million / Final domestic: $8.5 million)

It's clear audiences are trying to send a message to Hollywood – enough with the exorcism, hauntings and possessions. It's all bleeding together. It's hard to differentiate one from the other. Certainly, supernatural fare has been felt over the years with Insidious and the Paranormal Activity films, but the last few months have been especially busy. And within the span of a year, Hollywood has effectively made moviegoers grow weary of these types of films and their apathetic reaction is being felt at the box office. Hollywood's fixation on capturing The Conjuring's success could be partially to blame. The VOD market is always expanding, welcoming more smaller budgeted imitators that flood the market – I'd like to think this is to blame, too.

But the bottom line is this: The audience is ready to move on. Where Hollywood likes to dwell on the past's success and try to recapture whatever worked over and over and over, audiences are looking for the next big thing in horror that may not have anything to do at all with Conjuring-like thrills. What that next "thing" is we never know. I get asked that all of the time: "What the next big thing?" The answer doesn't come easy. But when that special horror film hits, you can just feel it. I felt that way when I saw The Conjuring (it also helped that it had a brilliant ad campaign).

Side note: I ranted a bit about "the supernatural at the box office" via Twitter and one Shock reader suggested a return to slasher films. I honestly think a studio needs to have a pretty daring, crazy, inventive idea for the slasher film to catch on again.

As for the supernatural – it may be time to go. Of course, I say this when there's another Paranormal Activity on the way along with JessebelleAnnabelle (a Conjuring spin-off), AmityvilleOuijaAs Above So Below, the Poltergeist remake, Insidious Chapter 3 and The Conjuring 2. So, "the supernatural" isn't going to be departing our theaters any time soon, but I think now would be a good time for studios to start thinking of a contingency plan and mine some other horror genres to reignite the box office.