As someone who checks box office data pretty religiously, I'm fascinated by the fact that a.) there have only been two real surprises at the box office so far this year, and b.) they both are from the same production company: Blumhouse.
Split has grossed more than $135 million domestically and another $112 million overseas, for a cumulative total of more than $248 million—not bad, given that the latest horror film from M. Night Shyamalan cost under $10 million to make. The racial horror* flick Get Out, meanwhile, has grossed more than $111 million domestically on an even tinier budget ($4.5 million) and shows no sign of slowing down, dropping just 15 percent in its second weekend and 25 percent in its third. I'd be surprised if Get Out does the same kind of international business as Split (which featured internationally known franchise star James McAvoy in the lead and famed horror auteur M. Night Shyamalan behind the lens), but its domestic take alone is staggering enough.
This is nothing new, of course; Blumhouse's business model has long been to churn out several low-budget horror/thriller movies a year, advertise them cheaply, and hope that a few hit at the box office. It's the home of The Purge and its sequels, the creepy domestic invasion thriller The Gift, the increasingly mediocre Paranormal Activity flicks—as well as the Oscar-friendly Whiplash. All of these have been successes because the studio keeps their budgets low, as Jason Blum explained at the 2015 Produced By conference:
The three-to-five million dollar figure is not a random picked number. … That amount is about what we are able to recoup on the movies if we don’t get a wide release. In a worst case scenario, we break even and maybe lose a little money but not very much, and everyone gets paid scale… That budget is reverse-engineered to thinking that if the movie isn’t in wide release, at least we get our money back and can keep our doors open.
You keep costs down by paying actors and directors little upfront, offering points on the backend and by not wasting $20 to $30 million on ads for films that can't recoup that by opening wide. A lot of Blumhouse flicks end up going straight to VOD—and that's fine! The low production budgets and carefully allocated advertising budgets give creators a great deal of room to play with. There's no chance that a novice like Jordan Peele would've been given the space and the money to make an inflammatory flick like Get Out without the Blumhouse business model.
The low-risk/high-reward model has paid off handsomely for both the company and also for fans of the studio's preferred genre. Let a hundred Blumhouses bloom!
*I suppose this categorization skirts being The Dread Problematic; I'm trying to come up with a term like "body horror" or "torture porn" or something to describe the way in which Get Out, the terror of which rests entirely on racial presuppositions, works.