Jason Blum’s low-budget, high-concept approach to the horror movie has made him a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. Now, the influential producer is betting he can do the same in China, the world’s fastest-growing and soon-to-be-biggest film market.
Blum’s studio, Blumhouse Productions, will make its foray into China via an ambitious new partnership with Tang Media Partners, the Shanghai- and Los Angeles-based entertainment company founded by Donald Tang in 2015.
Blum and Tang unveiled the pact Monday at the Shanghai International Film Festival. The two partners said they have entered into a collaboration agreement to co-develop and co-finance a slate of Chinese-language horror and thriller films to be distributed by TMP in China. The projects will be jointly produced in both China and the U.S.
“Jason Blum is a master storyteller who has proven that his revolutionary take on the horror/thriller genre travels around the globe with an unparalleled level of success,” Tang said in Shanghai. “We are proud to partner with him to bring his magic to China.”
The partners said their first collaboration will be American Nightmare, a Chinese-language horror film to be shot in Los Angeles (further details on the film were not revealed).
China has represented Hollywood’s fastest-growing segment of the global box office for at least half a decade, but the horror genre — while red-hot in North America — has remained an underexploited storytelling category there.
The most obvious reason is regulatory: China has no official ratings system, and the country’s notoriously strict censors only permit the release of films deemed acceptable to audiences of all ages. (In 2017, Beijing began attaching a parental warning to films considered “adult” in tone and content, but child moviegoers still aren’t barred from admission). Most of Blumhouse’s most lucrative horror/thriller titles, for example — Get Out, Split and the Paranormal franchise — weren’t distributed to China.
Yet some nongraphic U.S. horror films have begun to find a foothold there, such as John Krasinski’s international horror smash A Quiet Place, which was cleared by Beijing for release in April and went on to earn a healthy $33.7 million. Blumhouse’s own Happy Death Day (2017) also received a release, earning $9.6 million, as did STX Entertainment’s horror film The Boy (2016) with $2.5 million. A number of inexpensive domestic horror titles also have hit Chinese screens, such as 2015’s The Mirror ($1.5 million) or last year’s Death Ouija 2 ($1.9 million).
Blum and Tang are betting that a premium storytelling touch, combined with the recent diversification in the Chinese theatrical landscape, will allow them to further capitalize on the genre’s untapped potential.
“Despite Blumhouse’s success around the world, we have been unable to crack the Chinese market,” Blum said Monday in Shanghai. “With Donald Tang’s help we’re hoping we can do it now.”
Launched by Tang, a former investment banker, in 2015, TMP is beginning to escalate its original film and television output around the world. The company’s flagship U.S. entertainment arm, Global Road, is headed by former Lionsgate Co-Chairman Rob Friedman, who revealed at the Berlin Film Festival in February that the studio had amassed a $1 billion war chest to spend on film production over the coming three years. In April, TMP unveiled a series of growth initiatives in Hong Kong, including a partnership with Chinese Internet giant Tencent and investment company China Everbright Limited to acquire 10 to 20 Hollywood films per year for distribution in China.
Blumhouse is similarly in the midst of an expansion. The company hopes to continue its horror film hot streak with the release of David Gordon Green’s Halloween in October. Last year, Blum launched an independent TV studio with investment from ITV. Current projects include HBO miniseries Sharp Objects, starring Amy Adams, and a miniseries for Showtime about former Fox News Chief Roger Ailes.
Timed to coincide with the TMP partnership announcement, the Shanghai International Film Festival was scheduled to screen Blumhouse’s Oscar-winning horror hit Get Out for the first time in China on Monday night.