Geek Trivia: The root of all sequels

What is the most profitable movie ever made, as measured by percentage return on initial investment -- a horror film that underscores just how insanely easy it is to make money on cheaply produced fright films?

What is the most profitable movie ever made, as measured by percentage return on initial investment -- a horror film that underscores just how insanely easy it is to make money on cheaply produced fright films?

The film in question is none other than the infamously Internet-promoted The Blair Witch Project. Produced on a budget of just $35,000, Blair Witch earned over $248 million at the worldwide box office, for a return on investment of 354,614.29 percent! (This assumes that 50 percent of all proceeds were returned to the studio, which is a pretty standard Hollywood accounting rate.) Put another way, for every dollar spent on making Blair Witch, the movie earned $3,546.14. That's good enough for a spot in The Guinness Book of World Records as the most profitable movie ever made.

Lest you think Blair Witch is a mere fluke, we refer you to this list of all-time highest percentage ROI movies. Blair Witch is far and away number one, but the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead is fifth, the original Friday the 13th is eleventh, Saw is sixteenth, and Evil Dead is eighteenth. Five of the 20 highest-percentage ROI movies of all time are traditional horror films.

In terms of absolute profit, big-budget blockbusters like Titanic, Return of the King, and Jurassic Park still reign -- those three earned the most dollars after breaking even, ever. But those same kinds of movies represent the highest risk, as the top 10 money-losing movies of all time all had budgets of over $80 million, and eight of those 10 had budgets in excess of $100 million.

The top five ROI horror movies we mentioned above had a total combined budget of less than $2.3 million. If you're a Hollywood producer wondering about the safest place to put your movie money, horror films are perhaps the safest bet you can make.

Moreover, as most Hollywood observers will tell you, anytime a movie makes a significant profit, a sequel to that movie is almost a foregone conclusion. Thus, as horror movies are so easily profitable and affordably produced, is it any wonder that there have been 11 Friday the 13th films (counting Freddy vs. Jason), with a 12th to come in 2009; eight Nightmare on Elm Street films (counting Freddy vs. Jason); nine Halloween films; and now five Saw films (which is remarkable for a franchise that launched in 2004)?

That's not just some devilishly derivative dreck, it's a horrifically high-profit hack at Geek Trivia.

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