If you’ve watched any popular horror film in the last decade, there’s a strong possibility it was made by Blumhouse Productions. Known for its low-budget endeavours, Blumhouse Productions was founded in 2000 by owner Jason Blum.
At the time of publication, Blumhouse has produced 69 films, with a further 26 in development. Jason Blum has earned 2 Oscar nominations for Best Picture, from Get Out in 2017, and Whiplash in 2014. Further to this, the company signed a decade-long first-look deal with Universal in 2014.
Blumhouse produced its first feature, Paranormal Activity, on a budget of $15,000. Grossing over $193 million worldwide, it was both a critical and commercial success and paved the way for 4 sequels and a spin-off over the next 6 years. It also ushered in a new popularity of found footage horror films, with other studios clamouring to mirror the success of the film.
This low budget to high-profit method was obviously incredibly appealing to many studios, with companies such as New Line Cinema also utilising this model. Born out of the financial crisis of 2007-08, the idea was that if Paranormal Activity were not deemed suitable for wide release, it would not have a serious financial impact on the company.
As mentioned above, the secret to Blumhouse’s success is its low budget to high-profit model. But it goes further than that. The studio often allows a lot of creative freedom to its directors, something that famously large studios often do not allow too much of. Directors such as M. Knight Shyamalan have started working with Blumhouse, utilising smaller budgets than previous projects of theirs, but receiving much more freedom to explore new ideas.
The studio has also managed to start producing films based on large franchises, such as Leatherface, part of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, and Jigsaw, a spin-off of the Saw franchise. As the studio produces films at such an alarming rate, it is unsurprising if some of them pass you by. The big successes, however, cannot go unnoticed. Jeff Bock, a box office analyst at Exhibition Relations Co., notes “If you’re not doing horror movies like Blumhouse right now, you’re doing it wrong.”
Now considering how Blumhouse budgets its films, it is clear that it has the trappings of an independent studio. However, due to their deal with Universal, they also enjoy the perks of a large studio as well. Universal gets the first refusal with Blumhouse’s films, and only get involved heavily with projects when the film is screened and offers a large budget for advertising.
The films that Blumhouse produces generally follow the same guidelines when being made. Most are shot in Los Angeles with minimal location changes or CGI. Blumhouse often will not work with first-time directors and offer the creative freedom mentioned above in exchange for a low fee. This method has proved to be extremely successful at lowering budgets, but also with audiences. Films such as Insidious, Ouija and The Purge have all had huge box office numbers with minuscule budgets.
The films that come out of Blumhouse have presented a new age of horror films. ‘Jump scares’ became commonplace, as they do not involve large amounts of CGI, allowing for simple things like a door closing on its own to be enough. The settings for Blumhouse’s films tend to be modern day, ‘believable’ situations, such as suburban housing, and often revolve around families. This allows for the films to connect to everyday audiences without needing grand settings or exposition.
Several of the company’s films also focus on social media, such as Unfriended and Like.Share.Follow. The significance of this is we can see that the studio makes an effort to stay as relevant as possible with today’s society, finding stories that young audiences will connect to and find scary.
On the note of staying relevant, Get Out, which earned Blum a Best Picture nomination, as well as Best Director for Jordan Peele, Best Actor for Daniel Kaluuya and winning Best Screenplay, has been heralded as “the first great paranoia film of the Trump era”. Making politically charged horror films such as this and The Purge shows that Blumhouse is not afraid to show its political leanings, in addition to being incredibly open about its financing. Blumhouse is able to produce ten to fifteen films in a year on a micro-budget, allowing them to stay relevant and up to date with social issues and technology.
Blumhouse Productions will continue to be a major player within Hollywood, changing the landscape of both horror films and film budgets. With Get Out, the studio shows it is more than just a production line of throwaway films but instead capable of harnessing talented directors to produce Oscar-worthy films while still maintaining a microbudget.
With films that appeal to broad audiences, they can continue to dictate how horror films are made and are advertised, and will continue to become synonymous with horror. The company is starting to branch out into television as well, so it will be interesting to see how they translate their feature film production methods to the small screen. It’s possible that other large name directors begin to work with the company, and increasing its awards nominations over the next few years. It’s an exciting time to be a Blumhouse fan.
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