Meet the boss of Blumhouse Productions, as Freaky with Vince Vaughn hits theaters.
With your very tight production budgets and your ability to easily resell films to platforms or monetize them on VOD, Blumhouse appears to be the company best prepared to survive the Covid era.
Ah ah! I don’t know if we’re the best prepared for what’s going on, but our films do have a smaller budget than most. So we are more flexible. You can release a film in the cinema or in streaming very simply. We have a series of movies on Amazon called Welcome to the Blumhouse, and in parallel we have The Craft and Freaky which will be visible in the cinema where it is possible, and on VOD where it is not. I’m no more gifted than anyone else, but when you have low budget films, you don’t have to be in theaters for four months: you can find other media and other markets for sell and distribute them. So we have an advantage – a big advantage – on the production side, because producing films during the Covid is very complicated when the budget grows. But it’s much easier for the little ones, since we have tight teams. Afterwards, don’t get me wrong: our business has taken a toll. Halloween kills was going to be our biggest release of the year and we had to postpone the film for a year. Same for American Nightmare 5. Like all businesses that need the venue, we had a hard time. As long as the cinemas are not fully back and the public is not returning as much as before, we will not be able to have as much success as we had. There are other ways to monetize a movie than the theater, but nothing comes close to the revenue you can make from it.
Is your model going to become predominant?
Hollywood is addicted to big budgets. Both on TV and among streamers, budgets are bigger than they’ve ever been. Everyone wants to be paid up front. And from the moment you offer an actor ten million dollars in advance, you can’t do anything cheap. We’re kind of the only company to work on financial results. But managers, agents and lawyers don’t like it. Yet they should: if the film is a success, it can be much more lucrative. But it goes against Hollywood DNA. And then there’s a whole part of ego: a director like Michael Bay sticks to his budget of 200 million dollars to be able to play with whatever he wants. People in the industry want that. Not me.
But can they still afford it? Do they not have to adapt to the current crisis?
No. I know Netflix is making a $ 280 million movie with the Russo Brothers. Why should they adjust?
The Netflix case is a little different, you know, since their goal is to bring in new subscribers and keep the old ones. But for a blockbuster designed for theaters, with such a budget, it’s a big risk if the cinemas do not function normally …
In my opinion there are very few theatrical films being shot at the moment. When the pandemic is over, I believe on the other hand that cinemas will resume their place. There will always be blockbusters, but it will be different. In the United States, I think the operating life will be shorter. But I do not see the room disappear. In between, it’s up to us to adapt: can we go out on premium VOD? Do we have to wait for the cinemas to reopen? It all depends on the territory and how each country is affected by the virus.
Jason Blum: “The success of a film is 50% its quality, 50% the marketing”
Is it a good time for horror cinema?
It’s oddly counterintuitive, but there is a huge demand for horror cinema. People love to see it on screen because it’s not true, because it doesn’t happen to them. There is a cathartic side to seeing horror stories that are fake, while the real horror is happening behind our windows at the same time.
And this funny time inspires the writers? You must receive hundreds of scripts on pandemics …
I will never make a film about the pandemic. There will be, but I can’t even see myself reading a script about it. It’s so boring… I’m living a pandemic, I don’t want to see a movie about it! What a horrible idea. On the other hand, the fact that the artists are stuck at home will allow the emergence of incredible stories, I’m sure. Not necessarily about the pandemic, but all kinds of comedies, action movies, dramas, horror movies… They’ll be different after all that.
In which way ?
I don’t know exactly how, but it will be. I’m not a screenwriter, but I think the theme of isolation is very strong. There is something scary about being isolated, it goes against human nature. For example: here all the schools have different rules, but in some, if the kids can go to the yard, they cannot get close to the others. They must wear a mask and stay two meters away. It’s stamped as a situation! What would it be like, a movie about a kid who has been told for a year and a half or two that he can play, but never get close to another human being? What would happen to this kid? You know what I mean ? I smile there, but it’s horrible! And I think that will inspire very dark things, films that we are not used to.
Vince Vaughn (Freaky): “I like to freak out a bit when I arrive on a set”
How do you choose which film will go on a platform or on VOD, and which film deserves …
Bad word choice, be careful! (Laughs.)
Yes, I was telling myself. In short, how do you decide which film can be distributed in the cinema?
A cinema film, you have to sell it very quickly to a large audience, which has the choice among many other offers. The result is that there are very few genre films designed for theaters, and their releases are generally far apart. But beware: these are not better movies. Just a certain type of movies. The feature films we make for Amazon with Welcome to the Blumhouse, I don’t think they would have worked in the cinema. Not because they’re a bad movie, but because they’re a lot harder to sell to the mainstream because they’re not quite horror movies. for example The Lie is actually a thriller with horrific aspects. So the films we produce for streaming platforms are less genre-centric, they just have one foot in horror. But it allows you to take more risks with the script than with a film that would be released in theaters.
You have collected part of the Universal Monsters, after the studio failed to relaunch these franchises. The idea is to make it something different from your usual films? Maybe even imagine a crossover between all these characters?
I don’t have the rights to all the characters but they let me do a few, like Invisible Man. And we have Dracula and the Werewolf. And hopefully I will have more in the future. I see it as an extension of what we’ve been doing for a long time: Invisible Man is totally a Blumhouse movie, we shot it for ten million dollars. It was grounded and scary. A real horror movie. What Universal tried to do before was produce big, Marvel-style movies. It does not interest me. The Werewolf that we are preparing will also be on a low budget. I don’t believe these movies should try to compete with Iron Man. These franchises do not have a DNA ” family friendly “.
Your success has been insolent for many years. Do you fear that one day you will no longer be the horror Midas?
No, that doesn’t scare me. It’s going to happen, I know it. In maybe three or four years I’ll be making a film that won’t work with audiences. I am well aware that this cannot go on forever. I am even very aware. One day or another, someone else will do what we do, someone else will take the pulse of the times. And I will do something else. On the other hand, am I afraid of getting old and dying? This, yes (Laughs.)
Freaky, currently in theaters.