In order to elevate Screambox, a streaming service for horror fans, Tom Owen, co-managing director of Bloody Disgusting for Cinedigm, focused on a decidedly retro inspiration.
“We like to make Screambox feel like the staff picks section of old video stores,” he said. “We have a really incredible team of people who are real, authentic horror fans that live and breathe horror movies. They all have different tastes, and there’s a huge range of types of movies, but there’s a service that’s a home for all of them.”
In 2022, a year notable for an influx of critically-acclaimed and commercially-successful scary movies, Screambox transitioned from a little-known app to a major horror player, thanks to a homicidal clown named Art.
“Terrifier 2,” the surprise indie box office hit which made over $10 million dollars in theaters with a $250,000 budget, was produced by Bloody Disgusting, the company and media outlet that manages Screambox. The announcement came quickly that Screambox would become the official streaming home of “Terrifier 2,” and another horror star was born as its subscriber base boomed by 144% in the two weeks following its debut.
On Feb. 9, Screambox is releasing its highest-profile title since “Terrifier 2,” a found footage cosmic horror tale called “The Outwaters,” exclusively onto 115 screens in major markets across the United States and Canada, with a goal to expand the theater count as the weeks go on, before heading to the streaming service. The “Outwaters” trailer played prominently before screenings of “Terrifier 2,” and featured emphatic blurbs from genre writers about how scary it is.
“We wanted to give something that normally doesn’t get love some more mainstream attention,” said Brad Miska, co-managing director of Bloody Disgusting for Cinedigm. “Let’s try and get as loud as we can with it. I think we’ve done a great job of propping it up. A lot of people are really excited about it, and the validation has been amazing too, because internally, we like it, but it’s probably going to be divisive. It’s erratic and crazy and claustrophobic and scary, and people might not be into the emotion it evokes, but so far everyone who’s seen it really likes it.”
When Screambox was launched in 2015, it was a niche outlet for hardcore horror fans. But Cinedigm acquired the service in 2021, and months later acquired Bloody Disgusting. From there, Screambox quickly moved in a new direction.
“We were really looking at what worked at [Sony’s anime streaming service] Crunchyroll,” said Erick Opeka, chief strategy officer and president of Cinedigm Networks. “You’ve got editorial, you’ve got ad-supported [subscribers], you have free [subscribers]. They’re in theatrical, they’re doing events, and it’s been quite a successful business, a billion-dollar business. So we thought, hey, that’s a great road map for horror, so of course the first stop is we reached out to the horror editorial at Bloody Disgusting. They have a great fan base and that’s how we hooked up with Tom and Brad. When they joined, we handed the keys over to Screambox.”
That decision paid off, as Screambox has seen 900% subscriber growth since Bloody Disgusting took over catalog management. In 2023, the service is set to debut 30 original and exclusive films, as well as grow the listening base for their 25 original horror podcasts.
A continuing priority is messaging the difference between Screambox and competitor Shudder, the AMC Networks-owned horror subscription service which announced that it hit over one million subscribers in 2020. While Shudder boasts a deep catalog and more original films, Miska explained that Screambox’s more targeted selection will appeal to genre fans in a different capacity.
“I don’t want to disrespect other brands, but Screambox is curated,” he said. “We respect people’s time. I hate having my time wasted, and I think right now there’s too much content out there. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the way it is. There’s a lot of noise, so I think we want to be perceived as a company that when you come to Screambox and you pick a movie, you don’t feel like you’ve wasted your time, even if you don’t end up loving it and it’s not for you. You’ll watch it and you’ll say, ‘Alright, I get why people like this,’ versus, ‘Why is this crap on here? Why did I get tricked into watching this?’”