In the wake of another strong finish for a Blumhouse genre film, The Purge: Anarchy, Universal Pictures and Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions have made a new 10-year first-look production agreement. This will include Blumhouse partnerships with NBCUniversal businesses, including Universal Television and Universal Cable Productions. Blumhouse will bring its Sinister franchise to Focus Features, making Universal home to three of the company’s most profitable micro-budget franchises, including The Purge and Insidious, which is already based at Focus. The announcement was made by Universal chiefs Jeff Shell and Donna Langley and Blum.
“This studio has had an incredible experience working with Blumhouse and it only makes sense to broaden that partnership to NBCUniversal’s broadcast and cable networks,” said Shell. “Jason and his team bring an energy and focus that can be felt across the company and we are thrilled to honor his passion for entertainment with a long term commitment and extension of that relationship.”
Langley brought Blum over to the studio in 2011. “Jason founded a company in Blumhouse that is unique and cutting edge, and we’re honored that they call Universal home. Jason is extremely driven and highly creative. His style coupled with his industry relationships and strategic business model have been a recipe for much success between our companies. We look forward to expanding our opportunities together.”
Blum is an interesting guy, an amiable fellow who doesn’t seem like a horror mogul. We get together at Cannes, and it’s evident that he loves meeting with buyers from territories around the world, continuing to hone the formula for the pictures he makes, in an effort to make them more palatable to the international stage. I have to admit, the whole concept of The Purge and some of these other genre films I find appalling and have no desire to inflict them on myself. But clearly this is generation thing and there is a strong youth audience showing up consistently on opening weekend. In the last decade, Blum produced four of the top 10 best openers in the horror genre. Paranormal Activity 3 opened to $52.5 million and is the top opening horror film in the last 10 years; Paranormal Activity 2 opened to $46 million, at number 3; Insidious: Chapter 2 is number 5 at $40.2 million and The Purge is number 8 with a $34 million opening.
While it will remain to be seen if Blum’s genre formula can work as effectively on the small screen, Blumhouse’s feature track record shows he’s no flavor of the moment. The hit parade started with the $15,000 budget Paranormal Activity grossing around $200 million globally, followed by the Insidious, Purge and Sinister franchises, which have grossed more than $1.2 billion worldwide on combined budgets under $40 million. The Purge debuted last year and grossed $34.1 million on a $3 million budget. The sequel reportedly cost $9 million, but that’s still low for a film that opened in the summer at $28.4 million in North America alone. It finishes behind Dawn Of the Planet Of The Apes, a sequel that is two weeks in. That latter film, which cost a reported $170 million, will clean up overseas and the performance of these low-budget genre films has been spotty. But Blumhouse-generated micro budget genre is clearly is a low-risk, high-reward business and Blum is about as close to a sure bet in this game as you’re going to find.
Next up for Blumhouse is the supernatural thriller Ouija. Originally conceived as a big-budget Hasbro film, it was made for comparatively low budget and will be released in time for Halloween. Following that is The Boy Next Door with Jennifer Lopez, opening January 23, and the next Insidious from Focus. Others in development include Hasbro’s Jem and the Holograms and In a Valley of Violence starring Ethan Hawke and John Travolta.
Blum said, “Jeff and Donna and the entire team at Universal are the best at what they do. They take our micro-budget, filmmaker-driven genre movies and turn them into highly profitable, global franchises through their commitment, passion and creativity. The first thing people see when they walk into Blumhouse is the ‘wall of directors’ where we hang photos of all of our filmmakers. We are very excited to continue building on our success with Universal by adding to that ever-growing wall and giving more and more directors and now showrunners creative freedom to tell their stories.”
CAA brokered the new deal.