Off-the-Beaten-Path Horror Continues to Find a Home In Event Cinema

Water is wet. Fire is hot. Horror fans are crazy people who will turn up for—and drop cash on—the genre that they love. (Full disclosure: This Boxoffice Pro writer is speaking as a horror fan herself. Happy almost-Halloween.)

As event cinema expands, adding titles and seeing their grosses increase, horror has become one of the genres—along with e-sports, music, faith-based content, and more, in addition to the old standbys like opera, theater, and ballet—event cinema providers have begun to explore with more frequency. 

One of those providers, myCinema, sunk their claws into horror throughout the month of October via a partnership with Epic Pictures. The partnership saw myCinema release five horror titles from independent distributor Dread Central, part of the Epic Pictures Group. While myCinema also released classic horror films during the month of October—like several films in the Amityville series and the evocatively named 1971 anthology The House that Dripped Blood—the Epic films are all new titles. 

These films lack name recognition—either cast; director; or franchise, like the Blumhouse movies—outside of the niche horror festival circuit, which cuts down on their theatrical release prospects. But “for an event cinema type of thing, I think you can get away with experimenting,” says myCinema co-founder and general manager Glenn Morten. “If [a film is going to have] a full theatrical run… you usually want to have not just a genre hook, but you want to have that cast hook. So that’s probably why you don’t see a lot of Harpoons”—screening November 1—“out there.” 

In terms of adding films to myCinema’s slate, Morten explains, “if it’s more cult-oriented and has a rabid fanbase, that’s a very important thing that we look for.” That doesn’t exactly apply to any of the Epic titles, new as they are. But it does apply to the horror genre in general. It also applies to the smaller, independent theaters that make up much of myCinema’s 1,100-cinema network. “The smaller arthouses do a really good job, because they tend to have a fanbase of their venue, and a fan base of a festival or a Tuesday night horror [series] or whatever. They’re putting the trailers out there far enough in advance. As long as they’re putting it on their websites and their email communications, that’s the most powerful thing any cinema can do for the smaller films that don’t have the multimillion dollar big studio budget behind it.”

Planning ahead is an essential component of a successful event cinema run, as explained by Morten in more depth at this year’s Geneva Convention. At the Geneva Convention, he recommended that theaters start their marketing push at least four months in advance of release. For myCinema’s current horror series, that was impossible; the partnership with Epic came together “fairly fast,” with discussions taking place last summer leading up to an announcement in August. “We quickly pulled together the deal and scrambled like crazy to get all the assets in place!” The short timeframe meant that “we don’t have necessarily the window that we would prefer. …But now that we have the groundwork laid, we can bring on new titles and get them up to the 90 day window.” 

At the time of our interview, myCinema had screened Dread Central release Candy Corn, with Morten estimating  “utilization… probably in the 50-plus percent range. And for something that really doesn’t have a big marketing push behind it, that works out pretty well.”

MyCinema is far from the only event cinema provider to cater to horror crowds. Fathom Event’s release of Jeepers Creepers 3 topped $1 million in 2017; they screened the film again last week. (This is a controversial subject in the horror community, given director Victor Salva’s status as a convicted sex offender.) Musician and filmmaker Rob Zombie went to Fathom for 31 (in 2016) and 3 from Hell (in 2019). The American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) today announced a partnership with Multicom to distribute “dozens of films” from the latter’s library in theaters. AGFA is a non-profit archive and distributor, not an event cinema provider, but their Multicom partnership is yet avenue through which horror films (both new and classic) that would typically languish on streaming services or not get any sort of release at all can find an audience on the big screen. Scary’s always better in a crowd.

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