It is not common to see low budget movies excel at the box office as they’re normally in the shadow of high concept blockbusters. The top 20 highest grossing films of all time consist mainly of big budget movies and sequels. For instance, it’s not likely to see an independent film made in North Wales do better than a terrible Pirates of the Caribbean or Avatar sequel. However, as always there are exceptions. Some low budget or independent films can rise up and conquer the box office, defying all expectations.
Many classic and well known films fall into this category that you may not even realise had such a low budget. For example Rocky (1976) had a budget of $995,000 and made $225,000,000 at the box office. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) cost $300,000 and made $30,859,000. My personal favourite, The Breakfast Club (1985) made an incredible $50,000,000 profit. More recently, Juno (2007) only cost $7 million to make and grossed a whopping $231.4 million.
It’s been said that up to 50% of a movies budget is used for marketing purposes. This is to promote the film and to keep it in the public sphere to almost guarantee the films success at the box office. In comparison, low budget films can’t afford to do this. Instead they need to generate hype themselves. This has become increasingly easier to do since technology has become more accessible. For instance it’s now much easier to market a film to a wider audience than it was thirty years ago thanks to the internet. The best example of this and perhaps also the best example of a low budget movie that made a huge profit is Paranormal Activity.
The film cost a shockingly low $11,000 to make. After its opening weekend the horror film’s total gross was more than $65 million, making it the single most profitable film in history.
Low budget movies tend to become successful through ‘word of mouth’ alongside tantalizing stories and captivating casting. One key thing to note is that films belonging to the horror genre tend to be more popular than other low budget movies; for instance Saw (2003), The Evil Dead (1981), Friday The 13th (1980), Halloween (1978), Night of The Living Dead (1968) and The Blair Witch Project (1999).
There have been some amazing low budget movies that have become successful and I’m sure there are plenty more to come. But for now keep going to the cinema and spreading the word about your favourites as this seems to be the key to box office hits.
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