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‘Halloween’ debut bolsters Jason Blum’s movie empire

November 9, 2018

-- There is a fair bit that Jason Blum doesn’t know. The producer, for one thing, apologized last week for his errant assessment of horror-friendly female directors. And he has acknowledged in interviews that working with such directors as Spike Lee and Jordan Peele has pierced some of his racial naivete.

Yet Blum knows one aspect of filmmaking as well as anyone: How to be a highly successful Hollywood tightwad.

Last May, Harvard Business School published a case study of Blum and his strategy as the king of the circa-$5 million budget for genre pictures, ranging from the “Paranormal Activity” franchise to “Get Out.” “In recent years,” the Harvard study said, “Blum and his team were responsible for more such outsized successes than any other producer, especially in the horror genre.”

And this past weekend, after more than a decade of success, the Blumhouse shingle had its biggest opening ever, as the new “Halloween” soared to a $77.5 million domestic debut -- blowing past such Blum hits as 2011′s “Paranormal Activity 3″ ($52.6 million opening) and last year’s “Split” ($40 million opening).

“Halloween,” which returns Jamie Lee Curtis in a sequel to her iconic 1978 film, grossed $91.8 million worldwide in its first weekend, and will soon become Blum’s 16th film to crack the $100 million mark globally.

Impressively, all 16 of those movies have been released since 2009. And incredibly, none of his genre pictures on that list -- “Tooth Fairy” and “The Reader” are the two exceptions as non-horror releases -- have had a reported production budget of more than $15 million.

Yet the return of that investment is remarkable -- and unique.

Blum’s movies - almost all of them released in this decade -- have grossed more than $3.7 billion worldwide. That tally includes two hits from this past summer: Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” which has grossed $85.8 million worldwide on a $15 million production budget, and “The First Purge,” which has grossed $136.2 million on a $13 million budget.

Combine those 2018 hits with “Halloween” -- which has a production budget of just $10 million -- and Blum is having one of his biggest years ever.

In the process, Blum has moved from his found-footage thrillers like “Paranormal Activity” to attracting such directors as Lee, Peele (“Get Out,” “Us”), Damian Chazelle (“Whiplash”) and M. Night Shyamalan (“Split”) -- Oscar nominees all. (Blum has also moved into TV, and is working with “Spotlight” director Tom McCarthy on next year’s “The Loudest Voice in the Room.)

Blum has been likened to Roger Corman, the King of the B-movies, but he says he is able to blend his cut-rate commercial approach with his artistic aspirations - buoyed by a great production deal with Universal.

Along the way, the founder and chief executive of Blumhouse Productions - this bicoastal, Miramax-mentored son of art-world figures, and former Noah Baumbach roommate - has been able to diverge from the major studios, as the Harvard study wrote, unafraid “to bet on projects that other studios have passed on.”

With “Halloween” poised to perhaps become Blumhouse’s biggest movie yet, what’s most striking is not necessarily Blum’s string of lower-cost smashes, but rather that no one else in Hollywood is able to replicate to success.

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