NEW YORK • This year, scary clowns, scary dolls and scary suburbanites have drawn audiences to the movies in droves.
Even with two months remaining, 2017 has already become the biggest box-office year ever for horror.
Scary movies have collected US$733 million (S$1 billion) in North American ticket sales, according to the website Box Office Mojo.
The runaway success of It (more than US$300 million and counting) and Get Out (US$175 million) led the way, but October is a golden month for horror and will surely add more to that tally.
Happy Death Day was No. 1 when it opened this month (on Friday the 13th), and a new entry in the hit Saw franchise, Jigsaw (which opened last Friday), should also raise the total.
How has horror fared at the North American box office in previous decades? The genre's rise is tracked here, using data from Box Office Mojo and focusing on one key year from each decade since the 1970s.
Box Office Mojo breaks horror down into 10 subcategories on its site and its editor, Brad Brevet, has struggled with the question of what constitutes a horror movie.
He tried to bring some clarity with a new list. "When It came out, I created an R-rated horror list on Mojo," he wrote in an e-mail. "That, at least, felt representative of the horror genre."
With the R-rated list as a reference point, the highest-grossing year for each decade is based on figures collected from all the films the site considers horror. Also, the numbers have not been adjusted for inflation.
Biggest year: 1973, US$232.9 million
In the early 1970s, horror broke into the mainstream in a big way, primarily with the astronomical success of The Exorcist in 1973 (US$193 million).
That movie aside, horror did not make much of an impression that year. And it was really films released later in the decade that would prove pivotal.
The popularity of Halloween in 1978 (US$47 million) showed that slasher films could be a force. And 1979 brought the blockbuster The Amityville Horror (US$86.4 million) and the influential Alien (US$78.9 million). That film captured a mass audience with a return of sorts to the creature features of classic horror.
Biggest year: 1987, US$293.6 million
The slasher genre came into its own in the 1980s, with the introduction of Jason in Friday The 13th (1980) and Freddy in A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984).
1987 was one of the decade's most profitable. Elm Street was in its third instalment (US$44.8 million), The Lost Boys added young vampire thrills to the mix (US$32.2 million) and Predator, an action horror movie that probably would not have existed without the success of Alien, brought in strong numbers (US$59.7 million).
Biggest year: 1999, US$574.6 million
There were few major horror blockbusters in the early 1990s. Daniel Loria, editorial director of BoxOffice Media, cites the rise of home video in the late 1980s as the reason for the dip.
Things looked up in the later half of the 1990s, with the revival of the slasher genre through the Scream franchise.
And then, 1999 brought The Blair Witch Project, a lowest-of-budgets found-footage movie that scared up a phenomenal US$140.5 million.
Biggest year: 2000, US$617.7 million
Coasting on a wave of Scream popularity, the 2000 parody Scary Movie pulled in US$157 million. (It ranked No. 9 for the year, followed by the high-end horror drama What Lies Beneath at No. 10.)
Later this decade, found footage was replaced by slick yet gruesome torture horror such as the Saw films. Reboots became a trend. 2009 featured a reboot of Friday The 13th, a sequel to a reboot of Halloween and the sixth entry in the Saw series.
But the jaw-dropper that year was Paranormal Activity. A return to low-budget found footage, the film had a US$15,000 production budget and made US$107.9 million.
Biggest year: 2017, US$733.5 million
2017 has seen several strong performers from one of the most successful contemporary horror producers, Jason Blum (Get Out, Split, Happy Death Day).
But the biggest story is the tremendous run of It.
That Stephen King adaptation perked up the North American box office after a dismal August, and not even box-office experts predicted just how well the movie would perform.
Loria of BoxOffice Media said his team forecast an US$81 million opening weekend. The real number was US$123 million.
He said they look at social media mentions to see how vocal audiences are being about a title. "When it came to It," he said, "it was just really difficult to track the word 'It' across social media to get the snapshot we needed."