Jason Blum is at a crossroads — and has a lot on his mind.
The Blumhouse founder made his name as Hollywood’s preeminent horror producer, with an uncanny ability to churn out reliable hits at modest budgets, from breakouts “Paranormal Activity” and “Get Out” to this year’s killer-robot crowdpleaser “M3GAN,” which grossed $176.1 million on a $12 million budget following its January release. After producing the recent “Halloween” trilogy, Blum closed a reported $400-million deal with Universal’s Peacock service for a new trilogy based on “The Exorcist” directed by David Gordon Green. Spending money always makes Blum nervous, but sequels, reboots, and studio partners can help cushion the risk.
He wants to grow his empire, but there’s a ceiling to how much Blumhouse can produce in a year. That’s why he’s exploring an ambitious new phase as he plans to merge with horror director James Wan’s Atomic Monster under a still-developing deal with Universal.
“I’m interested in growing the company,” Blum told IndieWire’s Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson in a wide-ranging conversation for this week’s episode of Screen Talk. “By just throwing around more money and hiring more people, we could make more movies — but they wouldn’t be theatrical hits. I’ve thought a lot about how I can get from four to five to six to seven studio theatrical hits. The only way to do that is to take on a partner, an equal, who basically does what I do, and put the companies together.”
Blum and Wan’s longstanding relationship began with 2010’s surprise commercial success “The Conjuring,” which Blum produced and Wan directed. On “M3GAN,” Wan co-wrote the screenplay while Blum produced. “There are reasons why his particular company is a great fit,” Blum said. “By joining the two companies, the goal will be to increase the number of movies we can do per year that are great.”
The producer shared a lot of hot takes on the business, from his frustrations over the TV model and problems with the exorbitant cost of streaming to the looming writers strike and the recent Oscar ceremony, which yielded a gold statue for “Halloween” star Jamie Lee Curtis.
Listen to the full episode here, or watch it above. Check out some of his key takeaways in our listening guide below.
Why he’s planning to join forces with James Wan’s Atomic Monster (11:25)
“I’m interested in growing the company. This year, we’ll have five wide releases, that’s about it. By just throwing around more money and hiring more people, we could make more movies — but they wouldn’t be theatrical hits. I’ve thought a lot about how I can get from four to five to six to seven studio theatrical hits. The only way to do that is to take on a partner, an equal, who basically does what I do and put the companies together. There are reasons why his particular company is a great fit with ours. By joining the two companies, the goal will be to increase the number of movies we can do per year that are great.
“James in particular is a terrific fit in my mind because he and I have different skill sets. We over the years have proven incredibly good at recognizing and executing movies: finding filmmakers out there and then making those movies. We have never had an idea at Blumhouse and developed it; James is the opposite. James has more ideas for scary movies than up until now they’ve made. So we have a great idea machine and an apparatus to make them. Where are we in the process? We’re very close. I have every reason to believe that it will conclude, but it has not concluded yet.”
Why he supports the potential WGA strike (17:05):
“I’m squarely on the side of the writers. The writers want transparency in terms of how the things they write perform and they want residuals that reflect a more accurate picture of the performance of the things they do. I’m hopeful that a lot of forces, not just the writers strike, are pressing down on the streaming model embraced by everyone — Disney, Netflix, Apple, Amazon, which is to pay everyone up front. The pressure that all these companies all these companies suddenly feel to be profitable, they haven’t felt for the last eight years. Now everyone talks about profit. No one ever talked about profit in streaming. I am hopeful the pressure will make them do something [that] is much better for the entertainment ecosystem, which is to let the people who are really responsible for making the TV shows and movies participate.”
Why the TV model applied to film would make him quit the business (20:20):
“When asked, ‘What’s the budget of your TV show?’ everybody says, “It’s as much as we can get.” It’s irresponsible, it’s crazy, it makes no sense, it’s insane to pay a percentage of the budget to the people making the thing. So if that existed also in movies, I would quit, because it’s not interesting to me. Our theatrical movie business is entirely based on taking nothing upfront and only participating in what the movies do. Our fee on ‘M3GAN’ was zero. Our fee on ‘Black Phone’ was zero.”
Blum followed up with IndieWire after the podcast recording and added the following:
“The other reason that the model just makes no sense is when we’re looking to acquire things that could be turned into a television series, we’re looking for things that would inherently be expensive. In our movie business, we look for things that can be told inexpensively. In our television business, we’re actively looking for stories that are expensive, which is another reason why it makes no sense.”
He changed his mind about Tom Cruise (27:00):
“When he said at the time, ‘I’m never doing a theatrical movie unless it has a theatrical window,’ I didn’t understand what he was doing and I didn’t say ‘Good for him.’ The reason I deeply commend the guy is when he was saying those things, many people — and I’ll put myself at the top of the list — were not really sold on that idea. Every movie was not theatrical then. He made Paramount wait to release the movie. I was definitely like, ‘man, if I ran Paramount, I would’ve put that movie out.’ And Tom Cruise was right.”
On Jamie Lee Curtis thanking genre filmmakers in her Oscar speech (25:40):
“I took that as a personal thanks to us and I was thrilled. She’s an incredible force. I think that Oscar is not only for the work she did in that movie, which was terrific, but in her body of work, and also her spirit. She’s a wonderful, generous, great person.”
Making movies for streamers isn’t satisfying… (21:05):
“We’ve made about three or four streaming movies. It’s less interesting to me, and it’s way less lucrative for us, because streamers value and pay out actors, writers, and directors. This is across the board, not just Netflix. All the streamers totally don’t value producers in the way that they value writers, directors, and actors. [They] can go on in a streaming environment now and do better than before even today. Producers, not at all, which is a whole other podcast.”
…except when you close a $400 million deal with Peacock (21:54):
“The big exception to this is when we took advantage of the market with ‘The Exorcist.’ We did a reverse buyout deal. We got paid an enormous amount of money. There are a few exceptions — ‘Knives Out,’ ‘The Exorcist’ — where the producers get paid, too. But they are few and far between. I’m committed to making the movie profitable for both of us. So far, it has only been profitable for us but there are three movies and I’m very, very focused on making it profitable for them as well. But also I said, ‘Look: I’m doing this because of the way the business is going, but I don’t like it.’”
Why the next year of horror could have a lot of duds (32:06):
“The demand for horror over my career has been very consistent. The audience can take about eight or 10 horror titles a year. When you have a crazy hit like ‘Smile,’ everyone jumps in, so next year I’m guessing we’ll see 25 wide-release horror movies. Fifteen of those will not work. In ’25, it’ll go down to 10-14 releases. I’ve seen that happen multiple times. The audience is fairly consistent. The industry is what’s inconsistent.”
“Babylon” cost too much (34:00):
“I wouldn’t have made ‘Babylon’ because of the budget. [Damien Chazelle] would’ve gone next door to his friends at Paramount and gotten the bigger budget, anyway. But I wouldn’t have produced the movie. Money, budgets, it’s a sad thing in Hollywood. It isn’t just the streamers. Lawyers, agents — it’s stuck in their brains forever. I’ll ask a manager if they’ll read a script. ‘What’s the budget?’ ‘$10 million.’ ‘Well, we’re looking for a $30 or $40 million for this director.’ I’m like, ‘I can’t believe you’re saying that to me!’ That’s so ingrained in the culture of Hollywood that a more expensive production is better. It’s hard to undo that.”
“The Exorcist” is the riskiest movie of his career — for the studio, not him (39:00):
‘The riskiest movie I have ever made for sure is not out yet. It’s ‘The Exorcist.’ Just because it’s so expensive. Usually the bar to success on everything we do because it’s inexpensive is incredibly low. For ‘The Exorcist,’ it’s high.”
Blum followed up on this assessment after the podcast recording. “It’s not high risk for Blumhouse,” he said. “We’ve obviously already been paid, but it’s high risk for our partners. So when you ask me what the riskiest thing we’ve ever worked on is, I take that as for us or our financial partners. In the case of ‘The Exorcist,’ that would be the biggest one, because it’s a high risk for Universal.”