Are there any lessons to be learned from The Conjuring winning -- and R.I.P.D. losing -- this weekend's box office? Oh, just the same ones that were offered up last weekend, and many weekends before that:
K.I.S.S.: Keep It Super-cheap, Stupid.
Now, a reported production budget of $20 million is still greater than many, many independent horror films -- four times as much as Paranormal Activity 4, for example -- but for Warner Bros., it's still far less than what any of their action blockbusters have required. The film's estimated take of $41.5 million, according to Box Office Mojo. therefore, represents a good return on investment. (Compare that to Pacific Rim, released by the same studio, which earned a bit less last weekend but is considered by many a financial disaster due to its reported budget, in the range of $190-$200 million.)
Horror movies are perceived to have a "ceiling" that limits their earnings, with box office takes dropping sharply after the opening weekend, but if the budget is kept to a reasonable level, studios stand a good chance of enjoying reasonable returns. The studios have managed to pump themselves up to a gargantuan corporate level, however, where they feel obliged -- or required -- to roll the dice on multiple projects that cost well over $100 million in the wild hope that one will hit the jackpot and bring in the hundreds of millions of dollars so they can fund more wild gambles.
And speaking of big-budget gambles that didn't work out …