If you want to meet the smartest man in Hollywood, head east from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre until the Walk of Fame fades into a barren stretch of dental clinics and Filipino restaurants and enter a tasteful, almost camouflaged midcentury office that, until recently, was the headquarters of Cat Fancymagazine.
Ask for Jason Blum and, like Bloody Mary bursting from a mirror, he appears. “Buddy!” Blum shouts, whether it’s your first meeting or your 30th. Then the boyish 46-year-old horror filmmaker — the producer of five of the 10 most profitable hits in the last five years, plus 2009’s Paranormal Activity, the most profitable movie in history — beckons you to follow as he bolts down an eerie, lamp-lined hallway, past a dozen of his buzzing employees, to his office, where the remains of catnip mice have scattered for the new owner’s toy: a giant ax.
“I’m going to give you a ride in the van!” Blum says, and seconds later, you’re out his private glass door and back outside, blinking in the sun. He slides open the door of a 2005 white Chevy Astro and decides where you should sit, and his assistant speeds off. It’s been three minutes since you’ve arrived at Blumhouse Productions.
Blum, a fast-moving, fast-talking native New Yorker, has yet to embrace Los Angeles. He has, however, acclimated. The van is Blum’s adaptation to traffic: a mobile office with bamboo window shades (“I don’t like the way L.A. looks, so I have it all covered”), a flatscreen monitor and a keyboard Velcroed to an ergonomic lap pillow. He bought the van in 2006, used, and transformed it on the cheap. A printer rides shotgun.
The Chevy has the spirit of his low-budget horror movies. It’s a little grimy and a lot brilliant. “Blumhouse Electric,” an apt description of the man himself, is painted on the sides. Instead of a luxury SUV flaunting his financial success — $2 billion in global box office receipts from 22 films, with an average cost of $4.5 million each — Blum travels Hollywood disguised as a repairman. Which he is. The current model of expensive, high-risk blockbusters is broken. Blum is the brainiac who can fix it.
When Ouija, Hasbro’s $105 million follow-up to Transformers and G.I. Joe, was frozen in development hell, Blum raised a sledgehammer and volunteered to make it for $5 million. “We just started with the name and redid it,” he shrugs. His Blumhouse version of Ouija, released in 2014, made $102.5 million. Instead of a loss, he earned the studio’s money back 20 times over.