The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our way of life in almost incalculable ways. In the movie and TV business, we are definitely seeing the costs in lost jobs and shuttered productions. Producers like Jason Blum are leading the way in trying to figure out this new environment. They have to find the money for PPE and other safety precautions in budgets that are already stretched thin.
"It’s an additional 10 to 20% [of the movie's budget]," Blum told Inverse in a recent interview. "It ain't cheap."
Blum also covered the massive changes to the industry. Here are some of the highlights.
When asked about why his new film, Freaky, is going to theaters despite locations closing and the lack of an audience, Blum looked toward Hollywood's present and future.
"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," he said. "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."
This might just sound like an answer for now, but Blum thinks this is definitely the way of the future.
"When this is over, I think everybody is gonna follow the deal that Universal has," he said. "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 move to pay-TV and the traditional rental window, which is four or five bucks."
That all sounds reasonable.
But there's a magic in theatrical releases, especially with scary movies, that I don't want to lose. Another movie experience I like is going to see blockbusters. Marvel is producing Doctor Strange 2 and a new Blade movie, when asked if he thought those movies could actually be scary, Blum played politics.
"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?"
Don't expect Blum to get into the blockbuster game though. He's having fun where he is. Sure, he made Invisible Man and is making Wolfman for Universal, but he's not diving into the Dark Universe any time soon.
"I wish I was the right person to ask this, I’m just not," he said. "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."
This was an interesting interview because I think it showed Blum's ability to anticipate what genre will stick with audiences even as the way we shoot and show movies is changing. Blum knows his sweet spot will always be these limited-budget horror movies that have great hooks and great characters.
Whether we enjoy them at home or in a theater does not matter, as long as we are enjoying them.
What did you think of his answers? Let me know in the comments.