'Insidious' Lingers Longer Than Expected
by Brandon Gray
April 27, 2011
True to its title, Insidious has gradually built up a solid tally since its April 1 launch, holding exceptionally well for a horror movie. The FilmDistrict release made $13.3 million on its opening weekend, which was good for a low-budget first release from a new distributor but below average for the supernatural horror genre. Normally, that would have led to a final gross of around $30 million, considering the front-loadedness of the genre, but Insidious has racked up $45 million and counting.
Amidst a crop of other movies with some staying power (Limitless, The Lincoln Lawyer, Source Code, etc.), Insidious saw the smallest percentage declines among nationwide holdovers on the weekends of April 8-10 and April 15-17. This past weekend, it eased 23 percent to $5.2 million and only Hop and Source Code held better. FilmDistrict's early exit polling indicated that Insidious's audience was 60 percent under 25 years old and that there was an even split between the genders, but it skewed older and more female (55 percent) over time. Typical of the genre, Latinos have been a major contingent.
Directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannell (the team behind the first Saw and Dead Silence), Insidious is on track to becoming the best-holding horror movie that started nationwide since The Ring, and its pattern so far has been similar to the first Final Destination, despite the industry-wide increase in front-loading since that movie's release 11 years ago. It will also out-gross the hyped sequel Scream 4, a notion that was practically inconceivable prior to the two movies' releases.
To help illuminate Insidious's success, Box Office Mojo interviewed Bob Berney, FilmDistrict's President Theatrical Distribution:
Box Office Mojo: What is the basic appeal of 'Insidious?' Why is supernatural horror such a consistent draw?
Bob Berney: It's creepy and scary in a way that stays with you. It is also a clever film that pays homage to the classic horror films. Supernatural horror is a consistent draw because it is not predicated on blood or gore to be scary. Instead, it plays off of everyone's imagination.
BOM: Why did you choose this movie to distribute? Why did you make it your inaugural release?
Berney: We wanted to deliver on our promise to bring wide-release, quality films to the market, and it's very difficult to find a first project that actually fits the criteria. When our team saw Insidious, everyone agreed that this could be the one. But you never know, and I'm glad that we all look good now!
BOM: Why did 'Insidious' have a relatively muted opening gross compared to supernatural horror movies in general?
Berney: Actually, its opening was somewhat above [industry] expectations. Since it was not a sequel or one of the R-rated, more gory horror films, audiences had to discover it. Insidious has a retro feel to it and is reminiscent of "old school" horror movies.
BOM: Why has 'Insidious' held up so well?
Berney: The word-of-mouth is excellent and we've continued to support the film in the weeks after opening, contrary to the usual formula of putting all the resources into the opening week.
BOM: What steps did you take to buck the usual horror pattern?
Berney: Continued support, as I mentioned before, and also believing that this film would find an audience beyond the typical horror crowd as it is a smart, story-driven movie.
BOM: How did the current slow state of the box office contribute? Other movies like 'Limitless,' 'Lincoln Lawyer' and 'Source Code' have also held well.
Berney: It shows that much of the box office slump is often about the product. Insidious, Soul Surfer [which FilmDistrict managed the marketing campaign for] and the films you've mentioned really connected with their audiences, and, when that happens, it shows that the business can return quickly and there is really no ceiling.
BOM: How much of a factor was a lack of horror competition so far this year?
Berney: It definitely played a role in the success. We wanted to get Insidious out in the spring for just that reason.
BOM: Some 'Scream' fans grumbled that people were buying tickets to PG-13 'Insidious' and sneaking into R-rated 'Scream 4.' Any truth to this?
Berney: It's fun to think that some of that happened from my naturally competitive nature, but I don't really believe it was much of a factor.
BOM: How much of a factor has the PG-13 rating been for 'Insidious?' Are people going because it's PG-13?
Berney: I believe the film benefited from the rating in terms of getting people in that may not be hard-core horror fans. However, it's ultimately about the film itself and that it's entertaining, and, as a result, it's finding a wider audience. The rating could actually have been an issue with hard-core horror fans, but again James and Leigh made a truly scary film that delivers so well that the audience jumps out of their seats despite being PG-13!
BOM: Horror has been the basis for building new distributors before (New Line, Lionsgate, etc.). Why is horror the go-to genre for young distributors? How does your use of it vary from past upstarts?
Berney: It's a genre that has proven itself over and over, but quality and timing are everything. We were very fortunate to be able to work with these talented filmmakers and producers and make Insidious our first release.
• 'Insidious' Box Office Tracking
• Supernatural Horror