For everything there is a season — especially at the box office. Superhero movies open in the summer. Flashy musicals debut over Thanksgiving. YA adaptations are taking over March. (It’s no coincidence that Divergent will open on the same weekend as the original Hunger Games.) And what about horror movies? You might assume they all open in the walk-up to Halloween, but it’s January that has become the primary stomping ground for creepy possession tales and ghastly scarefests.
In recent years, Hollywood has used January to offer up titles like The Rite, The Devil Inside, Legion, The Unborn, The Uninvited, and My Bloody Valentine 3D. In 2013 Mama and Texas Chainsaw 3D both bowed at No. 1 in January (plus, the horror spoof A Haunted House was released). This year the found-footage spin-off Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones hit screens immediately, with the demonic-baby film Devil’s Due following hard on its heels.
“I think genre films really work well after the holidays,” says Nikki Rocco, Universal’s chief of distribution, who successfully released Mama to $72 million total. “People have been doing what they do for Christmas and New Year’s, and then they get back to normal living.” And apparently that means bingeing on easy-to-produce, cheap-to-market horror. Why do they do so well at the box office? They’re a welcome alternative for viewers not interested in artsy Oscar fare, and a refreshing change of pace after the warm ‘n’ fuzzy holiday season — which makes them the scariest part of the new year. Except maybe the bathroom scale.