Jason Blum on his ‘Exorcist’ trilogy: ‘I took the deal that I think is bad for movies’

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Producer Jason Blum recently closed a nine-figure deal with NBCUniversal for three new “Exorcist” films. Instead of taking a piece of the movies’ profits, the filmmakers and stars will be paid up front from one lump sum. Photo by Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

Producer Jason Blum made his name with low-budget horror hits, including “Paranormal Activity” and “The Purge.” His Blumhouse Productions has also picked up Oscar nominations for “Whiplash,” “Get Out” and “BlacKkKlansman.”

Late last year, Blum joined The Business to discuss WarnerMedia’s surprise decision to put all of its 2021 films on HBO Max the same day they open in theaters. 

He said that was just the beginning of what he called a bloody battle as studios threw themselves into streaming, and theatrical windows began to shrink, or for some projects, vanish altogether. Also under attack: profit participation for top industry players.

With the industry in another moment of turmoil following Scarlett Johansson's lawsuit against Disney over the streaming release of “Black Widow,” KCRW invited Blum back to take stock. The rise of mega-streamers, he says, may well come at the expense of everyone else. 

“I think Bill Gates or Sumner Redstone said, ‘Content is King.’ Michael Eisner said it a lot after that. And in a world where everything we see is being controlled by four steamers, I think it’s very safe to say that content is no longer king. Distribution and data are king. And that’s not good for anybody except the streamers.”

Blum thinks filmmakers and stars should be paid based on how much profit a movie makes. Traditionally, this has been based on how many people see a film in theaters. But when movies go straight to streaming, and companies refuse to share in-depth data about how many viewers watched a film, that payment system becomes impossible. Instead, streamers will often offer a flat fee up front. Blum says that leads to worse movies. 

But recently Blum made headlines with an eye-popping deal to produce three new “Exorcist'' movies for NBCUniversal. 

The 1973 William Friedkin classic — the first horror film Oscar-nominated for Best Picture — featured Ellen Burstyn as a mother understandably stressed when her child becomes possessed by a demon. 

Burstyn will return for the new franchise, along with “Hamilton” alum Leslie Odom, Jr. Filmmaker David Gordon Green will direct all three, and no matter how those films perform, the key players will be sharing one, nine-figure lump sum.

“I’m being a hypocrite because I took the deal that I think is bad for movies,” Blum says. “But this is the model, this is what we’re stuck with. I’m not gonna fight it, I’m gonna take advantage of it.”

Still, Blum says he’s committed to fighting for better data transparency from the streamers. Ideally he’d like to receive some amount of money every time someone streams one of his movies or TV shows. 

As for his “Exorcist” deal where everyone is paid up front? Blum says, “Do I think these kinds of deals are ultimately good for the quality of entertainment? No I do not.”

Credits

Guest:

Host:

Kim Masters

Producer:

Kaitlin Parker