BREAKING: Universal Pictures, which jettisoned its Hasbro-branded project Ouija over budget, has brought in a reconfigured version of the film. The old version, which McG was to direct, had a budget north of $100 million. The new one will cost around $5 million, I hear. Get used to this kind of budget for studio genre films, particularly after the recent successes of Chronicle and last weekend’s Project X, a film which cost $12 million and grossed $21 million. Though it’s produced by Silver Pictures and Todd Phillips’ Green Hat, the picture has no recognizable actors and still crushed it at the box office.
Ouija will be produced by Hasbro’s Brian Goldner and Bennett Schneir, Platinum Dunes partners Michael Bay, Brad Fuller and Andrew Form, and Blumhouse Productions. The latter addition explains a lot. Blumhouse is Jason Blum, the Paranormal Activity producer who signed a first look deal at Universal, and has brought it back in line with the kind of budgets he worked on with his films Paranormal Activity and Insidious. Now, Platinum Dunes has made low-cost/high-gross horror remakes like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror, but in today’s Hollywood economy, a $100 million for Ouija is just out of touch. To put it in perspective, when Universal made a gargantuan deal with Hasbro several years ago, $5 million was the penalty payment due Hasbro if the studio didn’t meet certain deadlines. That deal has gone by the wayside and now that $5 million is the entire budget of the picture. It doesn’t appear that McG is in the middle of this new version.
If you think this is isolated, it isn’t. Warner Bros, home of the mega-buck tent pole, is getting into the space. Paramount, which got it started on the studio level, is kicking it up a notch with its Insurge division. Even though these found footage movies, from Project X to Chronicle or The Devil Inside, don’t perform as strongly overseas, many of them have covered their budgets long before the opening weekend is over.
Platinum Dunes and Blumhouse are also producing Vigilandia together. That movie too will come in at about that price range.