Socionomics Alert: Stock Market Peaks Amid Record Horror Haul
Socionomics predicts rising and peak social mood produce heroes and a clear separation between good and evil. Falling and negative mood produce anti-heroes and ambiguity. The 1970s saw heroes such as Dirty Harry and Paul Kersey (from Death Wish, notably being remade with Bruce Willis in 2017). Dirty Harry gunned down criminal to the cheers of audiences and Paul Kersey carried out vigilante killings. Rambo was a hero who ran afoul of the law. In the 1980s, the good-guys are within the law. Rambo works for the government. Many heroes are fighting communists. At the peak of social mood, the superhero was reborn with characters such as Spiderman. This quickly turned dark in the 2000s. Dexter was a serial killer anti-hero. FOX currently has a show called Lucifer with Satan as the main character.
Horror movies also rise and fall with these trends. Freddy and Jason, two of the more famous horror movie characters, were both created in the late 1970s and peaked in the early 1980s. Horror was a less popular genre in the mid-1980s through the peak in social mood at the end of the Millennium. Since then, horror has steadily grown its box office receipts. It also turned gruesome with movies such as Saw and Hostel, what some critics describe as “torture porn.”
And now amid a new high in stocks, horror is at a new peak too.
The NYTimes article provides a summary of the genre’s rise and fall:
In the early 1970s, horror broke into the mainstream in a big way, primarily with the astronomical success of “The Exorcist” in 1973, which alone topped the collective total of any box office year in the decade. That movie aside, horror didn’t 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 ($47 million) showed that slasher films could be a force. And 1979 brought the blockbuster haunted house scares of “The Amityville Horror” ($86.4 million) and the influential space scares of “Alien” ($80.9 million). That film captured a mass audience with a return of sorts to the creature features of classic horror.
The 1980s characters earned into mid-decade:
The slasher genre came into its own in the ’80s, with the introduction of Jason in “Friday the 13th” (1980) and Freddy in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984). Those franchises produced buckets of blood and cash ($380.6 million total for “Friday” and $370.5 million for “Elm Street”). 1987 was one of the decade’s most profitable. “Elm Street” was in its third installment ($44 million), “The Lost Boys” added young vampire thrills to the mix ($32 million) and the action horror of “Predator” (a movie that probably wouldn’t have existed without the success of “Alien”) brought in strong numbers ($59 million).
Notably the stock market crashed in 1987. Socionomics says, that is no coincidence.
Mood peaks in the 1990s and horror fades, but picks up heading into the mood turn:
The early part of the ’90s saw few major horror blockbusters. Daniel Loria, the editorial director of Boxoffice Media, cites the rise of home video in the late ’80s as the reason for the dip. In a phone interview, he said that many horror films bypassed theaters for home video. “A B-side horror film like ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ might not have played in theaters had it been made in the late ’80s or early ’90s,” he said. “It might have just gone straight to video for a quick buck.” Things looked up in the latter half of the decade, with the revival of the slasher genre through the “Scream” franchise ($331.7 million). And then, 1999 brought a new revolution via “The Blair Witch Project,” a lowest-of-budgets found-footage movie shot on video that scared up a phenomenal $140.5 million, along with many copycats.
Things pick up into the 2000s heading into the 2017 record year:
But the biggest story is the tremendous run of “It.” That Stephen King adaptation perked up the domestic box office after a dismal August, and not even box office experts predicted just how well the movie would perform. Mr. Loria of Boxoffice Media said his team forecast an $81 million opening weekend. The real number was $123 million.
Horror movies peaked in the late 1970s and early 1980s amid recession and a low in stocks. It comes back for a one-year blast in 1987, the year global stock markets plunged 20 percent or more in a single day. Horror doesn’t return until the late 1990s and hits a short-term peak in the year 2000. After that, it grows into a larger and larger genre with a growing list of subcategories, before hitting a new record in 2017.
The implications for financial markets would be bullish if stocks were making new lows, since it would give a coincident indicator of a bottom in negative mood. Instead, this peak looks like it could be a larger version of the 2000s peak, a burst of horror at a peak as mood turns. If that’s that case, the next downturn in mood, the next political shift, is going to a lot more like the 1920s or 1850s than the 1970s.