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How This Tiny Production Studio Turns Cheap Budgets Into Millions At The Box Office

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Blumhouse Productions has a secret sauce when it comes to making great horror films: Keep budgets low and give directors complete creative freedom. And with huge box office hits like get out and To divide, to name only his most recent films, Blumhouse may be onto something.

get out, the latest film produced by Blumhouse, has grossed more than $163 million domestically, according to Box Office Mojo. The film had a budget of just $4.5 million and received a rare 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And with newly secured plans to expand into television, Blumhouse isn’t slowing down any time soon.

“One of the things that has been great about responding to get out, it recognizes that you can make interesting and thought-provoking films that happen to be horror thrillers,” says Couper Samuelson, 37, the company’s president of feature films. “It kind of emboldens us to make sure there are galvanic and interesting ideas in our horror films.”

With budgets, less is more

The Los Angeles-based company was founded by Jason Blum in 2000, but didn’t adopt the micro-budget model until 2009. A Blumhouse spokesperson declined to share company revenue figures, but the production house was behind some of the most popular horror series over the past 10 years, including the paranormal activity movies and Insidious chapters.

Blumhouse typically spends around $5 million or less for an original and up to around $10 million for a sequel, Samuelson says. These prices aren’t due to the production house trying to pinch some pennies; Samuelson notes that this helps promote creativity.

“Any time you limit someone, it always creates – in terms of resources – opportunities,” says Samuelson. “Our films have few visual effects. When you have someone made up like a prosthetic demon, it can feel more real than if you have the best computer visual effects artist.”

These small budgets create fear and big returns. The purge The series, centered on a fictional night where all crime is legal, was one of Blumhouse’s most notable film series. The first film, released in 2013, had a budget of just $3 million. It went on to gross $64 million domestically, according to Box Office Mojo. The second installment had a budget of $9 million and grossed over $71 million a year later. The third film got an extra $1 million for the budget and grossed over $79 million in 2016.

“If you’re not doing horror movies like Blumhouse right now, you’re doing it wrong,” says Jeff Bock, box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co., adding that Blum is the maestro of mic horror. -budget. “When you get that kind of return on that kind of budget, you do it well, perfectly, actually in terms of Hollywood structure.”

Horror hits are on the rise in Hollywood

Blumhouse isn’t the only production studio churning out appallingly good and cheap content. New Line Cinema, a competitor to Blumhouse, also operates the micro-budget business model. Last July, New Line launched Curfew, the story of a malevolent presence that lurks in the dark and has grossed $67.2 million domestically, according to Box Office Mojo. The film cost $4.9 million to make.

Directors of Blumhouse’s hit movies have returned to Blumhouse to make sequels or topical films, giving the production house repeat business with the hottest names in horror movies. One of the strategic ways Blumhouse builds relationships with filmmakers is by inviting them to screen their works in progress. Samuelson says it’s a great way to talk with the directors and bounce thoughts or ideas about the film.

“The way they build their movies in a think tank works. They basically print money into these think tanks,” Bock says, adding that typically a horror movie makes $100 million or more. per year. get out and To divide the two have earned over $100 million domestically. It’s a rare feat for the horror industry.

Blumhouse has more spooky plans in the works. On April 4, the company announced plans to launch an independent television studio with ITV Studios, acquiring a 45% stake. The investment values ​​Blumhouse at $80 million, according to Deadline. In addition, the TV studio will produce two new series: The purge (for USA and Syfy) and Securing and Holding: The Last Days of Roger Ailes (for Showtime). blum said The New York Times that Blumhouse TV will focus on “the things that scare us”, not just horror.

“Over the past few years, we’ve worked to make Blumhouse Television an independent studio so we can have the autonomy to work with the best storytellers and give them the freedom to create the best dark genre programming,” said Blum in a statement. “It’s a dream that this day is here.”