Before digging into what went wrong here, I should say that I commend Universal for trying to do something different in both cases. We’re talking about a cinematic figure in Dracula that has been going strong for literally more than 100 years. It needs to feel fresh in order to live on. It’s just unfortunate that not once but twice in the same year very different takes on the material failed to catch on the way they needed to. That said, there are some key takeaways here.
Neither movie scored particularly well with critics, broadly speaking. You can read /Film’s reviews of “Renfield” and “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” here and here, respectively. That certainly doesn’t help matters, particularly when dealing with stiff competition, which both movies were contending with in spades.
Both of these movies were also, frankly, too expensive. “Renfield” and its aforementioned $65 million budget is particularly high for horror, but “Demeter” also carries a high $45 million budget. Because of that, these movies probably needed to make at least $160 million and $112 million worldwide just to break even. Again, that’s at a minimum. Part of what helps something like “M3GAN” is the fact that it had a $12 million budget so it could have made $50 million worldwide and been just fine. The fact that it made $179 million is just drenching the cake in icing.
Horror, in general, has been the most reliable genre in the post-quarantine landscape. A major factor is the fact that genre pictures can be made for reasonable amounts of money, allowing for maximum profit if one hits. But it also means mitigating losses when one doesn’t. That’s why “The Blackening” only making $17.7 million isn’t a catastrophe. Is it disappointing? Yes, but not a disaster. Universal needs to accept these losses and extract the painful lessons moving forward.
“The Last Voyage of the Demeter” is in theaters now.