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Is piracy killing the horror movie?

Posted by Emma Smith on Wednesday, Nov 2, 2016

In the run up to halloween, the public are bombarded with adverts for both classical and new horror films. The movie industry has long suffered from piracy and it's possible that horror movies are bearing the brunt of the effects.

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Movies have benefitted from a dramatic increase in production budgets in recent years. The 1997 release of Titanic, which had an original budget of $200 million, made it by far the most expensive movie of its time. However in the past 10 years it has become common for studios to give the go-ahead for movies budget in this region.The biggest names in blockbusters and the highest grossing movies, including Spider Man 3, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Avatar and The Hobbit, all came with an original budget in excess of $230 million and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End even exceeded its $300 million budget. It doesn’t always take a big production budget to make a hit movie but it certainly helps.

But while movies have become more expensive to make, not all genres have benefited equally from the rising and generous production budgets. Horror movies have actually fallen victim to a steady decrease in budgets, between 2010-2014 the average horror movie budget was just $25 million.


So why have horror movie taken the hit?

The movie industry in general has suffered a reduction of revenue caused in part by piracy. According to research by Ipsos, 30% of Britons are now involved in some form of piracy whether it be downloading movies illegally online or buying counterfeits and it is costing the audiovisual industries £500 million a year in the UK alone. Meanwhile in the US piracy is costing the movie industry $20.5 billion according to The Guardian. As a result studios and production companies can’t afford to make risky choices. Jean Prewitt, head of the Industrial Film & TV Alliance in the US told The Guardian that distributors are not able to take the risks they used to. “What this means to the consumer is not that some producers don't get rich, it means the product doesn't get made" said Pewitt.

Partly in response to these budget cuts, and since the massive success of The Blair Witch Project, found footage-style horror movies have gained popularity and some have done extremely well at the box office. The Paranormal Activity franchise averages $99 million in takings per movie domestically despite no film in the series costing more than $5 million to make according to Box Office Mojo. However according to Jeff Bock, Chief Analyst for Box-office Tracker Exhibitor Relations, this is both good and bad news for horror movies as the success of the these films has made it hard for a studio to justify spending more than $20 million for a movie.

Younger audiences are no longer the most popular movie goers

The second major factor contributing to declining horror movies budgets is that they can no longer attract the audiences they once did. “The young people just aren't there," says Universal President of Domestic Distribution Nikki Rocco. While moviegoers under 25 used to power the genre, it is now those over 25 who are actually buying tickets and young people are more likely to download movies illegally. Dailytech reports that while nearly half of Americans (45%) actively pirate media, the figure is much higher for the young demographics where 70% are accessing music or movies through piracy. A separate survey carried out by also confirmed that young people under the age of 20 were less likely to pay for legal content.  In a previous article we discussed that there has also been a change in piracy consuming habbits, while in the past piracy was mainly through downloading torrents, today streaming films is far more popular and much more difficult to police. When people are asked to justify why they pirate films,  the answers are usually that they don't perceive their actions as having any impact on the movie industry.

So the young audiences who once filled movie theatres to see high-grossing horror movies such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th or A Night on Elm Street might now be more likely to stay at home and stream movies illegally this Halloween. In the weeks leading up to Halloween last year there was a 21% increase worldwide in illegal peer-to-peer downloads of current and classic scary movies according to content rights specialist Irdeto. With hundreds of sites making it easy to download movies illegally it is likely that this trend will continue and this Halloween young people will again opt to watch horror movies from home, unaware of the negative impact this may be having on the future of the horror genre.

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About the author

Emma Smith

Post Written by Emma Smith

Emma is a professional writer working with Red Points, researching and creating high-quality content. She is a trained investigative journalist with a special interest in tech and global affairs. Emma graduated from University College of Dublin with an MA hons in Media and International Conflict, and has a BA hons in journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University