Another Guillermo del Toro film has been released, which is pretty much the same thing as saying that another Guillermo del Toro film has not made money at the domestic box office. Disclosure: I have not seen Crimson Peak at this time, so yes I am part of the problem, but I have nothing but enthusiasm for the film.
But still, a lot of things hung in the balance of how Crimson Peak would do this weekend, and now those things seem uncertain. Crimson Peak is a rarity of modern cinema – a big budget horror film that is produced by Hollywood. Budgeted at $55 million, Crimson Peak only made a $13 million domestic return. The silver lining though is that foreign markets matched that return to bring the total gross to $26 million, just below the halfway mark to match the budget, which is actually a pretty healthy place to be after your opening weekend. There is still plenty of time and opportunity for Crimson Peak to make an impact domestically and increase its presence abroad – it hasn’t even hit the big markets like China and Japan.
Basically, don’t worry about Crimson Peak, it will be just fine. What won’t be fine is the effect that its low opening weekend will have on future projects. Here is a rundown of nice things we likely can’t have now because nobody saw Crimson Peak.
Hollywood doesn’t ever just react, they overreact. The first thing to be called into question after Crimson Peak’s lackluster weekend at the box office is whether or not Pacific Rim 2 will remain on the backburner, or hell, if it even gets made at all. When Pacific Rim came out in 2013, it debuted to a sour $37 million against its mammoth $190 million budget. It would top out domestically at $101 million, still far short of its budget. Thankfully though, foreign markets would do the heavy lifting for us and give three times the amount of money we did, bringing the total worldwide gross to $411 million. That’s a big number, but the film just didn’t light up the summer box office the way it was designed to. A sequel seemed iffy for a while, but last year it was confirmed that one would be on the way in addition to an animated series, with the sequel set for April 2017. That changed earlier this year when the project simply went into limbo. A lot of pressure was on del Toro to deliver a money machine with Crimson Peak, and I have no doubt that had this film had a monster weekend, we’d be reading a press release announcing Pacific Rim 2 was back on with a firm release date right now. In this reality though, we simply wait for news one way or the other if Pacific Rim 2 will get made sooner or later.
Another casualty of this weekend was a win at the box office that a high budget, grandiose horror film needed at the box office. Remember, Hollywood will only make more of what makes money. Ever since Blumhouse made everyone in the business look stupid with their winning buy low/sell high model of production, horror movies have stuck to lower budgets. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of great films have come out this model, but it ended up knocking higher budget horror efforts out of the marketplace. Since the start of the decade, only five films have been made by Hollywood for a budget of $15 million or higher (The Wolfman does not count, it’s hardly even a film) – $15 million is a relatively low number for Hollywood studios, but a high one in today’s horror marketplace – and only three of them became hits. The Woman in Black had a budget of $15 million and would hit $54 million domestically, and top out at $127 million worldwide. Mama had the same budget of $15 million, and would hit $71 million domestically and $146 million worldwide. Then there’s the biggest hit of them all, The Conjuring, which became a gigantic hit to the tune of $137 million domestically and a monstrous $318 worldwide, all against a $20 million budget. Yes, a sequel is on the way for that film.
But it’s the failures that give the studios pause, never mind the massive receipts mentioned above. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark had a high budget of $25 million, and would nearly match that number domestically with $24 million, but only top out at $36 million worldwide. Not as wide a margin of profit as the other films. Then there’s Let Me In, budgeted at $20 million but only grossing $12 domestically and capping out at $24 million worldwide. The failures always speak louder than the victories in Tinseltown, and the horror genre has really felt that this decade.
The fact that Crimson Peak, the biggest budgeted of them all, didn’t ignite the box office like other higher budgeted horror films this decade will only decrease the amount of these films in the current marketplace going forward. Crimson Peak, by itself, will likely make its money back and possibly generate enough revenue to be even mildly successful. There’s really not much cause for alarm in terms of the film by itself. It’s the larger narrative that it generates that’s cause for alarm. It puts Guillermo del Toro and the state of higher budget horror films in great danger.