In a move sure to send ripples through the entire horror community, a pair of industry leaders are reportedly going through the motions to create an even more dominant horror entity. Jason Blum, the founder of prolific indie studio Blumhouse, and director/producer James Wan are in advanced talks to merge their companies according to the New York Times, which would create a genre movie behemoth, with the goal of creating far more content than either entity is currently cranking out on a yearly basis. The two Hollywood dynamos describe their relationship as complementary, with Wan representing more of the hands-on production side, and Blum being the business office expert. They’ve been working together off and on since Blum produced and Wan directed the hit film Insidious in 2010, launching a major franchise.
“James is probably 70 to 80 percent artist and 30 to 20 percent business person, and I am the reverse,” said Blum to NYT. Wan then added the following: “We really do complement each other, yin and yang, which is part of what makes this so exciting.”
Of the two, Blumhouse is the bigger entity, a self-sufficient studio of about 80 employees, which has generated more than $5 billion in ticket sales in the last 15 years, almost entirely within the horror genre. That has included recent films such as The Black Phone and David Gordon Green’s Halloween trilogy, as well as upcoming work like Green’s Exorcist reboot and the TikTok-dancing-killer-android film M3GAN.
Wan, meanwhile is both an in-demand blockbuster director of the likes of Aquaman and Furious 7, and a smaller-budget genre master of wacky films like Malignant. As a producer, his production company Atomic Monster has been behind many horror films with modest budgets, such as The Nun or Annabelle: Creation.
The deal would be expected to result in huge boosts to production for the retooled company, with Blum reportedly wanting to double the theatrical horror production of Blumhouse, while simultaneously producing other content for Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service. Both Blum and Wan would have first-look deals with Universal for upcoming horror content, while Wan would also be free to direct blockbusters for Warner Bros, such as the upcoming Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Speaking to NYT, Wan said he had “more ideas than I can handle by myself,” and stated that he’d like to expand into fields such as horror videogames, podcasts and live events—one wonders if Universal’s theme parks would play a role here.
It’s easy to see why studios are hungry for more horror content, as the genre has demonstrated its remarkable staying power as one of the only genres that reliably gets patrons into movie theaters in 2022. Horror films can likewise be made on smaller budgets, with casts of relative unknowns, which means when one of them blows up big, as Smile did in 2022 to the tune of $210 million in box office, there are massive profits to be made. Smile was made for a budget of only $17 million, so the profit margins here are extremely impressive. Likewise, this year’s Terrifier 2 was made for a mere $250,000 and has already taken in almost $11 million, making it one of the most successful movies of the year.
The flip side, of course, is whether such a huge boost to production will simply result in more bad movies, tarnishing the reputation of companies like Blumhouse and Atomic Monster. As Blum strives to become a big player, perhaps this is the time when horror geeks will begin asking themselves who “the next Jason Blum” might be.