Any concerns Jason Blum had about the future of the box office have been quelled now that The Black Phone has crossed $150 million at the global box office.
Blum was one of many who worried that lower-budget films might not have a place in theaters after the pandemic shuts down theaters. However, the film, a collaboration between his production company Blumhouse and Universal, proved to Blum and the larger industry that there is still a place for lower-budget films at the box office.
Crossing the $150 million mark in global ticket sales, The Black Phone is the third-biggest horror film to release so far in 2020, behind Paramount’s A Quiet Place: Part 2, which earned $299 million, and Warner Bros. “A Spell: The Devil Made Me Do It,” which grossed $206 million.
Bloom told CNBC that “The Black Phone” has not yet been released in South Korea and is expected to add another $10 million in global ticket sales when it does in September.
The significance of the film’s box office performance is due in part to its low budget of just $16 million and the fact that it is an original IP.
“Before the opening, you know, I was worried because in our kind of post-Covid theater world, it’s kind of predictable what people are willing to go back to the theater to see and what they’re not willing to go back and go see Bloom said.
Many worried that audiences would only gravitate towards big blockbusters or franchise-based films.
“I think it’s great,” said Abhijay Prakash, president of Blumhouse. “I think it’s really remarkable for us and for the industry. It’s obviously part of the theatrical recovery, what’s going on. I know the big boys get all the attention, like Top Gun and Jurassic. But what this film has done for what it is is truly remarkable.”
Bloom also said he was encouraged by the performance of “The Black Phone.”
“In the 20 years that I’ve been doing this, it’s one of the highest-grossing films the company has ever had,” he said.
Although low- and mid-budget films don’t often make headlines for their box office earnings, they contribute significantly to the overall industry both domestically and globally.
The 2022 box office had generated about $5.05 billion through Aug. 11, down 31 percent from 2019, according to Comscore data. It also saw about 31% fewer releases, with only 52 wide releases, films released in more than 1,000 theaters, compared to 75 during the same time period in 2019.
It became clear that the absence of so many low- and medium-budget films in theaters resulted in fewer ticket sales across the board. Adding these types of films to the list, especially those in the horror genre, can also entice audiences who are slower to return.
“If you talk to any of our exhibitor friends, they really like the horror genre because it brings out a reliable audience that often skews younger,” Prakash said.
Blumhouse has set a new standard for horror production in the 21st century, producing quality feature films on a lower budget. The studio is probably best known for films like Paranormal Activity and the Oscar-winning Get Out, as well as its ability to take these low-budget films and turn them into huge box office successes.
“Get Out,” for example, had a budget of about $4.5 million, minus marketing costs, and earned more than $250 million worldwide during its 2017 theatrical release.
Still to come from Blumhouse are “Halloween Ends,” which hits theaters in October and “M3GAN” in January. The studio is also developing a “Spawn” movie and one based on the popular game series “Five Nights at Freddy’s.”
“There’s a very vibrant business, and it’s not just comic book movies, not just movies, but great original storytelling in theaters,” Bloom said. “And, and this is, this is really, really important.”
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. Blumhouse has a first-look deal with Universal.