Entertainment

1 in 3 Gen Z Adults Have Seen a Horror Movie in Theaters in the Past Month

Meanwhile, Americans say Freddy Krueger is the scariest horror movie villain, per a new survey

Halloween Ends
A scene from "Halloween Ends," the final film of the new Halloween trilogy. Michael Myers ranked third on the list of scariest horror movie villains of all time. (Universal Pictures)

October is “spooky season,” and that’s proving to be terribly important for the box office as it strains to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

A slate of new horror movies, led by Blumhouse and Universal Pictures’ “Halloween Ends,” is drawing moviegoers — many of them younger and of diverse backgrounds — back to theaters. “Halloween Ends” debuted at the No. 1 spot at the U.S. box office in its opening weekend, earning $41 million. Paramount Pictures’ “Smile” and 20th Century Studios’ “Barbarian” also won their respective opening weekends, beating expectations and highlighting audiences’ thirst for thrills and chills at the movies this time of year. 

New Morning Consult data shows that Gen Z adults are driving Hollywood’s spooky season, with nearly a third (32%) saying they’ve seen a horror movie in theaters in the last month and two-thirds reporting they’ve gone to one in the last 12 months.

Young, Diverse Audiences Are Driving Interest in Horror Movies

Respondents were asked if they have seen a horror film in theaters in the past three years

Survey conducted Oct. 18, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,210 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Gen Z, Black, Hispanic audiences are most likely to see horror movies in theaters

  • Among generations, nearly half (49%) of Gen Z adults and 34% of millennials said they have seen a horror film in theaters in the past six months, compared with 14% of Gen Xers and 4% of baby boomers. 
  • Meanwhile, 38% of Hispanic adults and 37% of Black adults said they have seen a horror film in the past six months, compared with 18% of white adults. Nearly 1 in 4 Hispanic and Black adults said they have seen a horror movie in theaters in the past month.
  • Twenty-seven percent of men said they have seen a horror film in theaters in the past six months, compared with 15% of women. 
  • Nearly half (48%) of U.S. adults prefer original horror films, compared with 15% who prefer reboots or sequels of existing franchises. Original horror films like “Nope,” “Barbarian” and “Smile” all debuted to critical acclaim and have dominated at the domestic box office this year. 
  • More than 1 in 5 of Gen Z adults (22%) and millennials (25%) said they saw “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” a horror-comedy slasher from A24 Films starring Pete Davidson marketed as a “Gen Z whodunit,” compared with 9% of Gen Xers and 3% Baby boomers.
Freddy Krueger Is the Scariest Horror Movie Villain

Respondents were asked if they find the following classic horror villains and creatures to be scary or not:

Survey conducted Oct. 18, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,210 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Freddy Krueger, Hannibal Lecter, Michael Myers haunt America

  • Freddy Krueger (65%), Hannibal Lecter (60%), Michael Myers (60%) and Chucky (54%) are the horror villains most Americans find scary. 
  • Likewise, the “Halloween” (56%), “Friday the 13th” (56%) and “Nightmare on Elm Street” (54%) film franchises have the highest favorability rating among respondents, followed by “The Exorcist” (53%) and “Scream” (52%). 
  • Even though Morning Consult data shows that U.S. moviegoers prefer original horror movies, popular horror franchises from the 1970s and 1980s are clearly still resonating with audiences. As of Oct. 18, 46% of U.S. adults said they were interested in seeing “Halloween Ends,” which hit theaters and Peacock a few days prior.

The success of original horror 

Hollywood studios often struggle to create successful new action movie franchises, resorting to milking existing intellectual property until there’s little left for audiences to enjoy. That hasn’t been the case in the horror genre, as several of its recent box office hits, including “Barbarian,” “Smile” and others, were original stories.

Even the indie grindhouse horror film “Terrifier 2” has gotten a lot of traction this month, grossing over $1 million against its micro-budget of $250,000 and little marketing. The film has gone viral online thanks to stories of moviegoers vomiting and passing out. “Smile,” too, became a trending topic when Paramount placed creepy, smiling actors behind the home plate of several Major League Baseball games. Word-of-mouth and social media have helped the film earn more than $166 million at the global box office to date.

Horror fans have more to look forward to: Lionsgate’s exorcism tale “Prey for the Devil” comes out this Friday, Amazon Studios’ “Nanny” premieres on the streaming service next month and Universal Pictures’ “M3GAN,” whose titular, highly memeable doll is already going viral on social media, is slated for release in January. Morning Consult data shows that nearly a quarter of U.S. adults (24%) are interested in seeing “M3GAN.”

The Oct. 18, 2022, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,210 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.