Image credit to indyscreampark.com
Halloween may have come and gone for 2015, but fear and the addictive rush that humans get from experiencing terror in small doses are here to stay. Businesses understand that. While haunted houses and scary clown costumes are mostly seasonal in North America, horror films, roller coaster rides, and skydiving are popular no matter the month.
One of the things that makes fear so appealing to business owners and investors is the fact that it remains a gift which just keeps on giving. According to a variety of studies, only two fears come naturally to all of mankind – those of heights and loud noises.₁ This makes sense when examining most of the more lucrative industries in the business of horror; thrill seekers go to great heights to spur their adrenaline rush at amusements parks or on cliff faces while the rest of us often value scary movies and haunted attractions for their surprising, and often loud, pop-outs. Other fears are almost always learned fears, but they frequently affect the majority of people as well (consider snakes, guns, and fire). So in other words, fear is an often universal, easily created, and lasting phenomenon. All of that bodes well for profits.
One of the greatest examples of the easy earnings to be made off of people’s distress is the film The Blair Witch Project. When it first came out in July 16, 1999 – a long ways from Halloween – the movie grossed over $1.5 million in its first, limited opening weekend at the box office.₂ That may not sound remarkable if you compare it to other first weekend pulls; Avatar gained roughly $77 million in its first weekend.₃ However, the budget is key. While Avatar cost an estimated $237,000,000 to produce, The Blair Witch Project had a budget of only $60,000. With unknown actors, choppy footage, and a setting in the woods, the film’s directors were able to pull in a profit of millions and deliver terror to the doorsteps of consumers across the globe. This is the power of fear. It excites us, motivates us, and pushes us to pay corporations money so that we can scream ourselves hoarse, pee our pants, and puke off the side of mechanical theme rides.