The Inverse Interview

Jason Blum reveals how coronavirus is changing movies — now and forever

The CEO of Blumhouse talks Freaky, Halloween Kills, competing with Marvel, and making movies in a pandemic.

Jason Blum is the scariest CEO in Hollywood. As the founder of Blumhouse Productions, he's spearheaded a new wave of horror movies ranging from Jordan Peele's Get Out to 2018's Halloween reboot to anthology shows on Amazon and Hulu. And if we ever return to movie theaters, he's got plenty more scares in store.

In the meantime, the world is scary enough on its own, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. That's provided a formidable challenge for companies like Blumhouse, which are now forced to shell out for personal protective equipment so production can continue.

"It’s an additional 10 to 20 percent [of the movie's budget]," Blum tells Inverse. "It ain't cheap."

Ahead of his latest film, Freaky, Blum talks to Inverse about how the coronavirus is changing the movie industry, Universal's classic monster universe, and the status of upcoming Blumhouse movies like Spawn and Five Nights at Freddy's.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

Jason Blum.MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images/MediaNews Group/Getty Images

Why did Freaky get a theatrical release instead of going straight to digital?

Universal’s kind of unique right now — they have this agreement they can play in theaters for three weeks before you do a premium video-on-demand release. My view is this is kind of the future of most theatrical movies. That’s where we’re gonna be after the pandemic. So I wanted to take advantage of it now when some theaters are open, although now that it’s spiking they may not be open. I guess we’ll find out.

So this is a new arrangement?

Universal made this deal with AMC — it was the first of its kind — to do a shorter window and then go to premium VOD. Freaky is gonna be one of the first movies through this arrangement.

How will coronavirus change movies?

When this is over, I think everybody is gonna follow the deal that Universal has. I think the future of theatrically released movies is that they’ll play in theaters for a shorter time, they’ll be many more of them, and then they’ll be a two or three-month premium rental window where you’re paying $20 for the movie. Then it’ll movie to pay-TV and the traditional rental window, which is four or five bucks.

The pandemic has also made it more expensive to film. How does the cost of PPE factor into the budget for movies?

It’s 10 to 20 percent of the production cost. It’s an additional 10 to 20 percent.

Wow, that’s tough.

Yeah, it ain’t cheap.

Freaky hasn't come out yet, but do you think we'll see a sequel?

I hope so. I’d love to make a sequel. I’m ready.

Jason Blum with 'Invisible Man' stars Elisabeth Moss and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Invisible Man was a huge hit, and now you've got Wolfman. What's your plan for the Universal monster universe?

I wish I was the right person to ask this, I’m just not. They let us produce Invisible Man and they’re going to let us produce Wolfman, but the monsters and their fate and the direction and what the monsters mean overall, that’s entirely still a question for Universal. I’d love to be in charge of them, but I’m not.

You just released the first trailer for Halloween Kills, but the movie was delayed until October 2021. Was that a tough decision?

It was definitely disappointing. When you work so hard on a movie and you make it, you want people to see it, especially that movie. I wanted theatrical movie going to be back in full force before we did it.

There are a few Easter eggs in that trailer. Should we expect a lot of fan service in the movie?

Fans will be very happy, that’s all I’ll say.

"Fans will be very happy, that’s all I’ll say."

With Doctor Strange 2 and Blade in development, do you think Marvel can really make a scary movie?

I’m of two minds. I would never bet against Marvel. They have a relatively good track record — that’s a joke, they have one of the best track records ever, right?

“Never bet against Marvel.”

I also think it’s a challenge to do horror at big budgets, but if anyone can do it, it’s Marvel.

Blumhouse is producing the Spawn reboot. How will it be different from the previous movies?

It’s gonna be very different, it’s gonna be very edgy. What excited me about it is that Spawn is kind of the last great unexploited comic. So that seemed like an amazing opportunity.

It’s taken longer than I hoped it would have to get the story right, but we’re still working on it.

The Five Nights at Freddy's is still happening... eventually.Scott Cawthon

What about the Five Nights at Freddy's movie? That ran into some issues. Is it still happening?

It’s still active. We haven’t quite figured it out, but we’re getting closer every day.

That will be Blumhouse's first video game adaptation. What are the challenges in turning a game into a movie?

The story is the big challenge. You know, Five Nights at Freddy’s should have been easier because there are books, there’s a lot of lore and storytelling. For a video game, I think it has more storytelling than almost any other.

But still, the story goes down so many rabbit holes. It goes down so many different directions. It’s big. Choosing which part to tell the first time out of the gate — and how to tell it — has been tricky.

Disclosure: Jason Blum is an investor in W Media, a partially-owned venture of Inverse’s parent company, BDG.

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