Blumhouse Productions has become one of, if not the, biggest production company working in the horror genre today. How have they done it?
Known for many iconic films of the past decade, including Paranormal Activity, Sinister, The Purge and Insidious, the dozens of films Blumhouse Production spits out every year have made them an active contributor to the film industry today. Just this year, Blumhouse has already released eight out of the ten films they will be releasing for 2018, which includes Insidious: The Last Key, Truth or Dare, Upgrade and The First Purge.
It’s staggering to see just how Blumhouse has become such a powerhouse of profitable films. How did they do it?
Let’s take a look into Blumhouse Productions and their Blumhouse Model.
Jason Blum is the mastermind behind this genius scheme.
Born in 1969 Los Angeles, Blum has always had a strong affinity with filmmaking and film production. Perhaps his parents’ careers in the art industry could have been an attributing factor to this.
After graduating college, Blum went on to work for Bob and Harvey Weinstein (yikes) back when they owned Miramax in the ’90s. Jason Blum was an active contributor to the highly successful company, being an executive in charge of acquisitions and coproductions.
It was from his job under the Weinsteins that taught him all he needed to know about the film industry.
From here, Blum went off to found his new independent production company – Blumhouse Productions. For several years, Blum struggled to get his new endeavour off the ground. Their first release was 2006’s Giffin & Phoenix.
However, just after, Blum found his next hit project: a small independent found-footage film called Paranormal Activity.
Paranormal Activity was released in 2009 and has since been regarded as one of the most profitable and effective films of all time.
Using the niche genre of ‘found-footage horror’, director Oren Peli was able to work with a small budget (under half a million) and created a tight, claustrophobic indie film that wow-ed audiences.
In return, the film profited over $89 million, hence making the film rank as perhaps one of (some say the most) profitable films ever.
It’s interesting that Peli chose to capitalise on this genre that was still relatively new back in 2007 (when the film was made). Before Paranormal Activity, there was the also incredibly successful The Blair Witch Project, and choosing to interpret that format into a household environment makes the movie feel relatable, realistic and close-to-home (pun intended).
Jason Blum initially struggled to get Paranormal Activity off the ground. Despite positive reactions from several film festivals, Blum advised against DreamWorks’ plans to remake the film on a bigger budget. He believed that the film worked best as a low-budget horror, and that the film itself was perfectly good.
According to Business Insider Australia, Blum put everything on the line, saying that DreamWorks would get the remake rights if they set up test screenings. His plan was that the overwhelmingly positive reactions would persuade the company to not remake the film, and in the end it worked.
Dreamworks released the original movie in 2009 and it has since become a large franchise as a result of the first film’s tremendous success.
Since then, Blumhouse has consistently had many successful films since 2009, ranging from horror films like 2011’s Insidious or 2012’s Sinister, to even children comedies like 2010’s Tooth Fairy.
Looking over their films, it’s very apparent to see how constantly successful their films are. They spend a budget of a few million for each film, and in return they profit $50-$100 million, sometimes a little less, sometimes a lot more. And that’s just staggeringly impressive.
So what exactly is the Blumhouse Model?
If you haven’t already figured it out, Blumhouse spends minimum on budget and receives maximum in profit. All Blumhouse films generally have a budget of under $5 million, and sequels/franchise films are given up to $10 million.
Jason Blum has stated that there are a number of reasons why the model is worked this way, however on a financial level, Blum has worked out that even if the films flop, they lose a few million maximum. This approach is safe financially, especially when most of their titles are profiting immensely each year. Minimum budget, maximum profit.
This approach feeds into the creative aspect of the films too. In return for a small budget, filmmakers are given complete control over their films. This means that directors are given free-will to make whatever weird or ambitious projects that they want, even if it may not seem ‘marketable’ or ‘popular’. Perhaps Get Out is one of Blumhouse’s best example of this.
Jason Blum has even stated how the overwhelming success of Jordan Peele’s film was unprecedented to him. The concept was weird and bizarre, and there were a lot of underlying themes that were handled in a strange and original way. So in that aspect, I understand the worries Blumhouse might have had with the film.
But Peele was given the green light to make his film without any studio interference, and it has since become a huge hit, both in terms of revenue and awards. And its low budget didn’t hurt either.
A lower budget horror film allows for more creativity.
Filmmakers have a restriction with the funding, and hence they need to find more cost-effective avenues to make it work. This means a claustrophobic and tight setting, less CGI and more practical effects, better constructed scares.
Filmmakers can’t rely on over-the-top CGI or large scale set pieces, so they have to focus on a stronger script and powerful acting.
The Blumhouse Model really does have advantages for both the economic and creative aspects of their company, and this is clearly evident in not only the number of films released each year, but the amount of profit they get from each film.
Year after year, Blumhouse produces dozens of films of varying quality, so it’s no surprise that at least one of them will be a huge success.
Blumhouse has had many big horror franchises this past decade, with the likes of Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Sinister and even The Purge.
While I do hold reservations on the varying quality of these franchise films, it’s undeniable that their films have a specific market to cater to.
And with Shymalan’s new Split–Unbreakable crossover coming early next year, I can’t wait to see what Blumhouse has in store for us.
For more horror goodness, check out this article analysing why jump scares have lost their power.