Ouija - Shelley Hennig

Ouija - Shelley Hennig



 Ouija - Olivia Cooke

Ouija - Olivia Cooke

   Halloween horror: Horror films and Halloween have been a winning combination for Hollywood for many years.

   But as the social dynamics of celebrating Halloween have changed, so have Hollywood's strategies for making the most at the boxoffice of moviegoers' appetite for scary films.

   Because teens and young adults are the core audience for horror films, as Halloween became a party night for that audience the studios realized it made more sense to launch their scary movies prior to Halloween weekend when more people are available to see them.

   At first that meant opening those films a week before Halloween, but now Halloween's evolved into a mini-season of its own with horror films haunting multiplexes throughout October.

   This month, for instance, got off to a fast start Oct. 3 with the R rated supernatural horror thriller "Annabelle" from Warner Bros. and New Line. Made for just $6.5 million, it opened in second place to an enviable $37.1 million and now has a domestic theatrical cume of $74.1 million after only three weeks. "Annabelle's" a great example of how high the upside can be for horror films made on a tight budget.   "Annabelle" definitely had the right creative pedigree to attract horror fans. Its director, John R. Leonetti ("The Butterfly Effect 2"), was the cinematographer for "The Conjuring" and its producers are "Conjuring" creators (producer-director) James Wan and (producer) Peter Safran.

   "Annabelle" definitely had the right creative pedigree to attract horror fans. Its director, John R. Leonetti ("The Butterfly Effect 2"), was the cinematographer for "The Conjuring" and its producers are "Conjuring" creators (producer-director) James Wan and (producer) Peter Safran.

   "Annabelle" tracked best and in double digits with under-25 females, who typically are the core audience for horror films. That often surprises people, but Hollywood marketers know from research that young women enjoy horror films because they find it empowering that young female victims survive the horrors inflicted on them by male villains who are defeated in the end – although those dead villains frequently manage somehow to return to life to do sequels.

   In the case of "Annabelle," it also helped that the film scored nearly as well in tracking studies with under-25 males, which made it work as a date night movie.

   This "Conjuring" spinoff starring Annabelle Wallis, Alfre Woodard and Eric Ladin begins with the arrival of a very unusual vintage doll and goes on to include a home invasion by satanic cult members.

   Oct. 10 saw another horror film enter the marketplace looking for boxoffice blood. Universal and Legendary Pictures' PG-13 rated fantasy action epic "Dracula Untold"kicked off in second place with $23.5 million. Its cume after two weeks is $40.7 million.

   Directed by first-time feature director Gary Shore, "Untold" was produced by Michael DeLuca ("Captain Phillips," "Moneyball"). Starring are Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper and Samantha Barks.

   D"Dracula" tracked best and in double digits with men over 25 and nearly as well with under-25 men. That's a departure from the usual horror demographics where young women are the core audience.

   Evans, from "Fast & Furious 6" and "Immortals," plays Vlad the Impaler in this origin story about the man who became the legendary 15th century vampire Count Dracula.

   Horror took a break last weekend, but should heat up nicely Oct. 24 with the arrival of Universal's PG-13 rated supernatural thriller "Ouija"at about 2,700 theatres. It's tracking best with under-25 females, a good sign that the typical core audience that drives horror films will turn out to see it.

   The film's first time feature director, Stiles White, co-wrote the 2012 horror thriller "The Possession," whose producers included Sam Raimi (director of the first "Spiderman" trilogy). The "Ouija" producers' credits include "The Purge," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Paranormal Activity" and "Insidious." Starring are Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto and Daren Kagasoff.

    In "Ouija," a group of friends, including Cooke from TV's "Bates Motel," are forced to confront their most terrifying fears after awakening the dark powers of an ancient spirit board..

    "Ouija" will already be established in the marketplace when Halloween arrives Oct. 31. Despite competition from trick-or-treating festivities Friday and more Halloween partying Saturday night, Lionsgate will seize the holiday moment to celebrate the 10th anniversary of "Saw" with a one-week only theatrical reissue of the classic R rated horror thriller.

    "Saw" was originally released for Halloween weekend on Oct. 29, 2004.Directed by James Wan, who went on to direct the horror hits "The Conjuring" and "Insidious" (and the action thriller "Fast & Furious 7" opening next Apr. 3), it stars Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell (who also wrote its screenplay and later wrote the "Insidious" franchise screenplays) and Danny Glover.

    "Saw" became Lionsgate's first franchise and helped it go from being a small indie distributor to a big global studio. The franchise's seven episodes have grossed about $416 million domestically and about $874 million worldwide.The Guinness Book of World Records lists "Saw" as the "Most Successful Horror Franchise" of all time.

    Lionsgate calls "Saw" a "psychological thriller focusing on two men who wake up in a secure lair of a serial killer, with a dead body lying between them. The killer, nicknamed 'Jigsaw,' leaves them tape recorded messages with details of how to make it out alive. The only way for one man to make it out alive is to do the unthinkable. The two men desperately try to find a way out, while also trying to figure out who's behind their kidnapping."

   The film franchise that's probably most closely identified with Halloween is the one that's named for the holiday. The first "Halloween," which was directed by John Carpenter, opened Oct. 25, 1978 via the indie distributor Compass. Made on a shoestring budget of just $325,000, it grossed $47 million in domestic theatres.

   The franchise's 10 titles have done a total of $308.5 million domestically. Five of them, by the way, opened not in October but either during the summer or in late September, recognizing that moviegoers' taste for blood on-screen isn't limited to Halloween.

   Bottom line:Horror films will continue to haunt multiplexes for Halloween. Looking ahead to next October, moviegoers can plan to have a scary good time seeing:

   20th Century Fox's "Frankenstein" (Oct. 2, directed by Paul McGuigan and starring Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy).

   Universal and Legendary Pictures' "Crimson Peak" (Oct. 16, directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Jessica Chastain and Charlie Hunnam).

   Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema's "The Conjuring 2" (Oct. 23, starring Vera Farmiga and Chad Hayes, who also co-wrote it with Carey Hayes).