Serious TV fare over horror for Blumhouse

Ms Marci Wiseman and Mr Jeremy Gold (both above) run Blumhouse's TV division.
Ms Marci Wiseman and Mr Jeremy Gold (both above) run Blumhouse's TV division.PHOTO: NYTIMES

LOS ANGELES • Hollywood studio Blumhouse knows how to make hit movies.

Produce a film on the cheap, market it to audiences who love horror and then sit back and watch the huge box-office results roll in.

It worked for Paranormal Activity (2007), The Purge (2013) and Get Out (2017). The latest example, its Halloween sequel, took in US$77.5 million (S$106 million) over the weekend for one of the best openings in horror film history.

Now Blumhouse, founded by producer Jason Blum, is taking on television in a serious way. And it will have to see if its winning formula for film can translate to the crowded TV marketplace, where American viewers can choose from an estimated 500 scripted series this year alone.

It will not be easy.

The same month that Blumhouse rolled out Halloween in movie theatres, it released the first instalment of a monthly anthology series for Hulu called Into The Dark.

If you were not aware that it has been streaming for over two weeks, you are not alone.

It has generated little buzz, certainly less than Netflix's new horror series, The Haunting Of Hill House.

Blumhouse also knows that it will have to move beyond monsters and the paranormal if it wants to reach a large TV audience.

"Our movie company makes seven to 10 movies a year," Ms Marci Wiseman, who runs Blumhouse's TV division with Mr Jeremy Gold, said in an interview. "We're charged with populating the airwaves."

She noted that there were only so many slots for scary television shows. "If we could, we would own every one of those slots and gladly do so," she said. "But we also want to be omnipresent and be a studio that is making as many shows as we think deserve to have their stories told."

Blumhouse has experienced success on TV before. It was a producer on HBO's acclaimed thriller Sharp Objects this summer and the Emmy-winning documentary series The Jinx in 2015.

But it has also been behind forgettable one-season flops like The River (ABC), Stranded (Syfy), Eye Candy (MTV) and South Of Hell (WE TV).

Seeking to inject the TV division with experience, Blum hired Ms Wiseman, 55, a former executive at AMC, and Mr Gold, 51, formerly an executive at Endemol Shine Studios and Fox, in 2016.

Last year, Blum sold a 45 per cent stake of the television unit to the British-based ITV Studios to raise cash to spend on content.

The anthology series on Hulu will consist of a new television movie under the Into The Dark banner every month for the next year.

In addition, there is a television adaptation of the Blumhouse franchise The Purge on USA Network, and Sacred Lies, a young-adult drama on Facebook Watch.

Going into production next month for Showtime is an adaptation of a biography of Fox News founder Roger Ailes, starring Russell Crowe. Several other projects are in production, including unscripted series. In other words, not too many ghosts.

Blumhouse executives explained that only 20 per cent of the studio's television projects will be traditional horror fare. The movie division is somewhere closer to 80 per cent, Blum said.

Or, as Mr Gold put it: "It's simple sales: To only be peddling horror, that's not a great way to scale a whole studio."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2018, with the headline 'Serious TV fare over horror for Blumhouse'. Print Edition | Subscribe