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

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
MovieProjected WeekendDrop from Last Weekend
Gravity$31.03 million28%
Captain Phillips $17.3 million33%
Carrie $17 millionNew
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 $10.1 million27% 
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. 


While Scream won't be remembered in the same breath of Psycho or The Shining, it was important in reestablishing the horror genre across the past 20 years. The movie was notable for injecting humor and a "meta" feel that mocked the predictable nature that had befallen the horror genre in the decade preceding the film's release. 

Scream wasn't at the success level of Jaws or The Excorcist, but it did manage to pull in $173 million in global box office off a production budget of just $14 million. It also started a series of similar teen-themed horror movies that was significant enough to inspire a counter-genre of comedy movies like the Scary Movie series. 

A niche that keeps delivering

While The Exorcist and Jaws were mass market hits, today's horror movies are more niche films that appeal to a younger audience. These films don't have the ceiling of blockbusters, but can deliver with smaller production budgets. A good example would be this year's The Conjuring, which has a reported production budget of just $20 million but has made $309 million at the global box office. 

A mass market hit isn't out of consideration either. The Sixth Sense made $673 million across the globe back in 1999. So, while Carrie might have disappointed at the box office this weekend, scary movies have plenty of box office life in front of them. 

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