Much like all of our favorite horror icons, the genre is so hot that even when a studio does everything wrong, the films find a way to survive. This Friday saw the release of not one, but two major fuck-ups, both mishandled by their studio brass. Sony Screen Gems’ Slender Man (review), directed by Sylvain White, was chopped up at the very last minute out of fear of public backlash, while the Jon Turteltaub-directed The Meg (review) was slaughtered during production, removing all of the blood and guts in order to ensure a PG-13 rating.
There’s a bit of bizarre irony to this chain events because Screen Gems had moved up the release of Slender Man in order to catch the younger audience before they were to go back to school. They did this under the assumption that The Meg would be rated R and targeting a different demographic. Only Warner Bros., unbeknownst to most, had changed their focus and targeting the same audience. There’s a political analogy here in the sense that two films were battling for the same votes/dollar. In the end, this would end up hurting both films, and even so, they both performed okay. Probably because horror is hot.
The Jason Statham-starrer The Meg was posied to belly flop hard and sink. Early projections had it topping $20M domestically, while it overperformed and doggy paddled its way to an estimated $44-45M here in the States and a strong $97M internationally. It’s hard to break down the film’s financials without having all of the information – including how much of the alleged $150M budget was provided by Chinese financiers Sino-Foreign. How does having Chinese investors change the take out of the Chinese release or international for that matter? Nobody but the top brass know the real breakdown and thus it’s impossible to know just how good or bad the film has performed. What we can do is a basic guesstimate, just for lulz. The budget is reported somewhere between $120-170M, so I’ve been sticking with $150M in my head. The marketing is typically matched, which would land us around $300M for the entire run. After box office gross, the net to the distributor ranges somewhere from 50-80%, which would mean The Meg probably needs to see around $500M worldwide to break even. It currently sits at $141M.
As for the critically-panned Slender Man, it still managed to spook $11.2M out of audiences on just a $10M budget. It’s hard to gauge marketing costs on a lower budget film, but this has got to be bottom of the barrel, considering the minimal buys and promotional materials. It could pull down $20-25M in its full run, which would get close to breaking even, meaning international will make or break its success.
Once again, even when everything is going against a genre film it finds a way to persevere. Can you imagine if Sony actually supported Slender Man and didn’t destroy it? What if The Meg was the R-rated romp it was supposed to be? As fans, all we can do is hope that we’ll see the filmmakers’ original visions on the home video release. As for sequels? Slender Man and Meg, we barely knew ya.
Editor’s note: numbers are being updated throughout the day.