The 2023 box office got off to a good start with blockbuster Christmas holdover Avatar: The Way of Water heading toward $2 billion, and the January release of acclaimed breakout horror hit M3GAN, which should reach $100+/- million worldwide today. Which means Director Gerard Johnstone’s M3GAN has officially joined the top 10 highest grossing horror movies of the Covid pandemic era.
(left to right) Amie Donald, Allison Williams, and Violet McGraw star in “M3GAN”
On track for a $130+ million final cume, M3GAN had solid holds for its second weekend of release. The MLK Day holiday helped boost attendance, but even so this is an excellent run for the $12 million budgeted picture from Blumhouse, Atomic Monster, Divide/Conquer, and Universal.
Horror has been one of the few genres to more consistently perform relatively well — and better than many/most others — during the Covid pandemic.
For three years and counting, as other studio releases struggled to cover costs or generated only moderate outcomes compared to lofty expectations, more modestly or outright low budgeted horror films have done healthy business.
While 2020 saw cinema suffering across the board as Covid spread uncontrolled and domestic policy was to either deny it even existed, falsely claim it would end soon, and refuse to do anything to prevent or slow its spread until vaccines eventually became available. As a result of what can literally be called an anti-public health policy that first brutal year of the pandemic, widespread illness and death coupled with local lockdowns and shuttering of businesses in a desperate attempt to slow the pandemic’s body count until vaccines arrived.
That real-life horror show meant theaters wound up closed for much of the year, and even when they were open few people took the risk of venturing out for a screening. Only one film from 2020 made it into the top-10 for the Covid era, as you’ll see shortly when I list all 10 of those best performers. But by 2021 things were improving, so much so that two of the top three horror performers on the list are from that year. But 2022 was when the gates really opened and audiences rewarded horror with multiple big performers and plenty more successful, profitable — although more modest — box office outcomes.
M3GAN director Johnstone and screenwriter and producer Aleka Cooper have much to celebrate, achieving excellent box office success and great critical reviews of their film, as well as the fact it’s now officially among the pandemic era’s highest grossing horror releases.
Likewise, they can be proud of the quick announcement of a sequel, which is set up to not merely retread the same ground as the first film but to in fact take it in an interesting new direction and mine additional subgenres of horror (such as a twist on the “haunted house” approach). Perhaps we’ll even get a nod to Terminator 2 if Cady and Emma invite a new robot into their home that has to protect them this time from whatever new dangers are in store (which is all I’ll say, for fear of spoiling M3GAN).
Now, let’s take a look at the top 10 highest grossing horror movie releases of the Covid pandemic era, from 2020 through today.
By the end of its run, M3GAN looks to climb that list and take the #8 spot from Halloween Kills — another Blumhouse production. But if M3GAN holds even better than expected, it might possibly even bump Scream from its #7 position, and The Invisible Man from the #6 slot. That would be some heavy lifting at this point, so I suspect M3GAN will be more than happy to settle into a comfortable seat in seventh place, which is a wonderful outcome.
Notice, by the way, that M3GAN gives Blumhouse five of the top 10 grossers on the list — The Invisible Man, The Black Phone, Halloween Kills, Halloween Ends, and M3GAN. So Blumhouse has definitely felt a lot of love from audiences despite the pandemic these past few years.
Be sure to check back here soon for more updates on M3GAN, other horror releases, and much more from box office to movie and streaming reviews, dear readers.
And if you’re heading to theaters this weekend, please don’t forget to mask up — the pandemic is not merely still ongoing, it’s surging dangerously again with new variants that are the most easily transmissible yet, and which might have stronger resistance to vaccinations and other medical treatments for Covid. Plus, the flu is still out there too, and it’s a nasty one. So be safe, protect yourself, and protect others who might be immunocompromised or otherwise at higher risk of serious illness, death, or Long Covid outcomes.