Horrormeisters James Wan and Jason Blum Team Up Seeking a Monster Payday – and Possible IPO | Analysis

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The geniuses behind low-budget megahits like “The Conjuring” and “The Purge” could cash in from teaming up

james wan jason blum M3GAN
James Wan and Jason Blum (Photo illustration by TheWrap; Getty Images)

News of the potential merger of two of Hollywood’s savviest genre filmmakers, Jason Blum and James Wan, has sent jump-scares throughout Hollywood — and not just at Warner Bros., which let its deal with “Conjuring” franchise creator Wan lapse earlier this year after nearly a decade.

The coupling is a big score for Universal, where Blum has a long-time deal that has produced a string of profitable low-budget hits — five this year alone. But the move also portends a joining of two like-minded creators looking to take advantage of a marketplace willing to pay top dollar for proven hit-makers.

“Blum and Wan combined are the unassailable kings of horror-thriller and would be extremely attractive to outside financiers or as a public company,” one top Hollywood agent told TheWrap. “Blum is perhaps the smartest producer in the business and is well aware of the money that Hello Sunshine or SpringHill got for selling ownership stakes,” the agent added, noting that Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine sold for $900 million to Kevin Mayer’s Candle Media last year, while LeBron James’ SpringHill Entertainment got an investment from RedBird Capital at a $650 million valuation.

The Blum-Wan merger is “100% about money,” a second industry insider agreed. “Blum can greenlight low-budget movies, which gives them more control,” this individual said. “Put them together and it could be a very valuable company.”

Representatives for Blum, Wan and Universal didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Blum and Wan have overseen some of the biggest franchises in modern horror cinema — a big plus for Universal, which is light on tentpole projects since the end of the “Jurassic World” trilogy last summer and the imminent sunsetting of the “Fast & Furious” series. The two have worked together frequently: Wan directed the first two movies in Blumhouse’s “Insidious” franchise (a fifth film, “Insidious: Fear the Dark” is in postproduction and will be out next summer), and the two reteamed on the forthcoming sci-fi thriller “M3GAN,” which Universal will release in January.

On his own, Blum has developed hit horror franchises like “Sinister,” “Paranormal Activity” and “The Purge,” while also adapting preexisting IP like “Ouija,” the new “Halloween” films and Universal’s classic monster movie “The Invisible Man.” (There have been 12 Blumhouse movies released this year — two were Stephen King adaptations, one was the final film in the new “Halloween” trilogy and seven were original horror concepts.)

Currently, Blumhouse is in the middle of a 10-year deal with Universal, but the studio isn’t obliged to distribute everything that the prolific producer makes (often on the cheap). While Universal has released five Blumhouse films this year alone — “Firestarter,” “Halloween Ends,” “The Black Phone,” “Vengeance” (via Focus) and “They/Them” (via Peacock) — he’s also sent out projects via Epix, Amazon Studios, Momentum Pictures and Netflix. Blum is currently overseeing a new trilogy of “Exorcist” movies for the Universal.

Wan, meanwhile, has proven to be a reliable hitmaker over at Warner Bros., where he directed the first two “Conjuring” movies and oversaw a burgeoning franchise that has grossed $2.1 billion against a combined production budget of $178 million. (By comparison, Disney/Marvel’s blockbuster “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” has an estimated budget of $250 million alone.) Last year, he also directed and produced the passion project “Malignant” and produced “There’s Someone Inside Your House” for Netflix.

Why would Warner Bros. let Wan’s Atomic Monster go to a rival studio even if he’s still attached to upcoming Warner projects like “The Nun 2,” a ”Conjuring” universe spinoff that’s currently filming, and the Stephen King adaptation “’Salem’s Lot” due next year?

Insiders note that Warner Bros. already owns everything Wan has created for the company. “There’s no need to pay for an overall/overhead [deal] when they already own all the IP,” the agent said, noting that studios have been eliminating term producer deals left and right in recent years. (A rep for Warner Bros. had no comment beyond confirming that Wan’s deal had expired.)

Wan might find a better partner in Blum anyway — especially with the chance for a lucrative payout ahead. “The merger is really about Wan himself and the value he brings to the contained horror-thriller,” the agent said, referring to a genre where characters are tasked to survive while trapped in a single location.

And despite his success, Blum has been open about wanting a partner, according to an individual with knowledge of his operations. The two have different skill sets: While Blum has mostly worked behind the scenes, Wan has the production chops to write and direct projects that range from low-budget horror movies to big studio assignments (he’s currently finishing the “Aquaman” sequel at Warner Bros).

“Each are doing fine separately — to combine means they both see the increased value together to dominate market share,” a top manager said, noting that the merger “brings stronger quality to the distribution machine.”

“I believe there is a larger play for Jason Blum,” the agent added, comparing the Blum-Wan duo to the recent teaming of filmmaker James Gunn and producer Peter Safran at DC Studios. “Not only does he become Wan’s new Peter Safran, but it’s a huge opportunity for outside equity and eventually, to take this new combined company public.”