Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz

Jason Blum (Award Winning Producer) discusses Halloween, Streaming, Research, & More!

October 18, 2022 Kevin Goetz & Jason Blum Season 2022 Episode 5
Jason Blum (Award Winning Producer) discusses Halloween, Streaming, Research, & More!
Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz
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Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz
Jason Blum (Award Winning Producer) discusses Halloween, Streaming, Research, & More!
Oct 18, 2022 Season 2022 Episode 5
Kevin Goetz & Jason Blum

Send Kevin a Text Message

Kevin is joined 3-time Academy Award nominated & Emmy Award winning producer, Jason Blum in this re-released interview from earlier this year.  Jason is the founder & CEO of Blumhouse Productions, regarded as the driving force in the horror movie renaissance, and has produced over 150 movies and television series. He has been recognized by TIME magazine’s 100 list of the world’s most influential people and has appeared several times on Vanity Fair’s “New Establishment List.”

Jason Blum, Producer
Jason Blum has produced iconic franchises like Halloween, Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Happy Death Day, Sinister, among several others, and received Academy Award nominations for producing Whiplash, Get Out, and BlacKkKlansman. Jason is also a two-time Primetime Emmy Award-winning and a three-time Peabody Award-winning producer. More recently, Jason produced The Black Phone, and Halloween Ends.

Scary Test Scores from Ouija and Halloween (5:17)
Jason and Kevin discuss the Blumhouse movies with the biggest jump in scores following the audience test-screening process. They talk about Ouija and the original Halloween, and the massive jumps in scores after testing and reshooting.

Scores vs. Feel and the testing issues with an entirely unique movie like Get Out (14:54)
How does an audience respond to a movie that is unlike something they have never seen before? Kevin and Jason talk about audience testing for Get Out, and how the marketing, gut feeling, & test scores come into play with an unclassifiable film.

How streaming has changed audience research and the movie-going experience (20:47)
The global pandemic saw the rise of streaming services, and Kevin talks about the changes in audience research due to this rise. A fascinating discussion follows of what types of movies do well theatrically vs. streaming.

Audience questions (32:13)
Kevin fields questions from the audience including how much faith to put in the numbers that an audience gives verses the audience reaction, how many movie screenings before a film is released, and some insider stories from Kevin’s book, Audienceology, of how the audience research process led to massive DNA changes in some of the most well-known and loved movies in Hollywood.

Testing an early version of Beauty and the Beast (38:02)
Switching gears, Jason asks Kevin about audience testing and animated movies. Kevin recounts a story from Audienceology about audience testing for an early version of Beauty and the Beast.

Join Kevin and his guest, producer Jason Blum, and learn how they successfully used audience screen testing to craft some of the most iconic horror franchises of all time. Listen in on a fascinating discussion of the future of theatrical movies in the streaming era, and enjoy some insider stories.

Host: Kevin Goetz
Guest: Jason Blum
Producer:  Kari Campano

For more information about Jason's upcoming projects:
Website: blumhouse.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Blumhouse/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/blumhouse

For more information about Kevin Goetz:
Website: www.KevinGoetz360.com
Audienceology Book: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Audience-ology/Kevin-Goetz/9781982186678
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: @KevinGoetz360
Linked In @Kevin Goetz

Show Notes Transcript

Send Kevin a Text Message

Kevin is joined 3-time Academy Award nominated & Emmy Award winning producer, Jason Blum in this re-released interview from earlier this year.  Jason is the founder & CEO of Blumhouse Productions, regarded as the driving force in the horror movie renaissance, and has produced over 150 movies and television series. He has been recognized by TIME magazine’s 100 list of the world’s most influential people and has appeared several times on Vanity Fair’s “New Establishment List.”

Jason Blum, Producer
Jason Blum has produced iconic franchises like Halloween, Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Happy Death Day, Sinister, among several others, and received Academy Award nominations for producing Whiplash, Get Out, and BlacKkKlansman. Jason is also a two-time Primetime Emmy Award-winning and a three-time Peabody Award-winning producer. More recently, Jason produced The Black Phone, and Halloween Ends.

Scary Test Scores from Ouija and Halloween (5:17)
Jason and Kevin discuss the Blumhouse movies with the biggest jump in scores following the audience test-screening process. They talk about Ouija and the original Halloween, and the massive jumps in scores after testing and reshooting.

Scores vs. Feel and the testing issues with an entirely unique movie like Get Out (14:54)
How does an audience respond to a movie that is unlike something they have never seen before? Kevin and Jason talk about audience testing for Get Out, and how the marketing, gut feeling, & test scores come into play with an unclassifiable film.

How streaming has changed audience research and the movie-going experience (20:47)
The global pandemic saw the rise of streaming services, and Kevin talks about the changes in audience research due to this rise. A fascinating discussion follows of what types of movies do well theatrically vs. streaming.

Audience questions (32:13)
Kevin fields questions from the audience including how much faith to put in the numbers that an audience gives verses the audience reaction, how many movie screenings before a film is released, and some insider stories from Kevin’s book, Audienceology, of how the audience research process led to massive DNA changes in some of the most well-known and loved movies in Hollywood.

Testing an early version of Beauty and the Beast (38:02)
Switching gears, Jason asks Kevin about audience testing and animated movies. Kevin recounts a story from Audienceology about audience testing for an early version of Beauty and the Beast.

Join Kevin and his guest, producer Jason Blum, and learn how they successfully used audience screen testing to craft some of the most iconic horror franchises of all time. Listen in on a fascinating discussion of the future of theatrical movies in the streaming era, and enjoy some insider stories.

Host: Kevin Goetz
Guest: Jason Blum
Producer:  Kari Campano

For more information about Jason's upcoming projects:
Website: blumhouse.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Blumhouse/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/blumhouse

For more information about Kevin Goetz:
Website: www.KevinGoetz360.com
Audienceology Book: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Audience-ology/Kevin-Goetz/9781982186678
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: @KevinGoetz360
Linked In @Kevin Goetz

Podcast: Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz 
Guest:  Award Winning Producer Jason Blum
Interview Transcript:

Announcer (00:02):

There's a little-known part of Hollywood that most people are not aware of known as the audience test preview. The recently released book, Audienceology, reveals this for the first time. Our podcast series, Don't Kill the Messenger, brings this book to life, taking a peek behind the curtain. And now, join author and entertainment research expert, Kevin Goetz.

Kevin Goetz (00:24):

Okay, listeners. It's nearly that time of year again, Halloween, and with it comes this year, a kind of sad story because Halloween, the most revered franchise in film history, arguably, after 45 years, is reaching its conclusion. So, it's an emotional time for many connected with the movie, I imagine, including Jamie Lee Curtis. And she faces off against Michael Myers for the very last time. But of course, I'd like to say that if the movie is successful, they'll probably find a way to bring it back yet again. Earlier this year, I interviewed the film’s producer, Jason Blum, and he's a buddy. And it was a very enlightening, I think, really strong interview and in honor of the Halloween Ends release, I'm going to share it with you here today. Jason, of course, is the founder and CEO of Blumhouse Productions, which produced this summer's The Black Phone and horror franchises the Paranormal Activity series, Insidious, The Purge and movies like Get Out. And as many of you know, many others, I do hope you enjoy this interview. Sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Kevin Goetz (01:34):

Jason, I'm so excited to be here with you.

Jason Blum (01:38):

I'm thrilled to be here with you.

Kevin Goetz (01:39):

I haven't seen you for about a week.

Jason Blum (01:42):

I mean, it's been a month.

Kevin Goetz (01:45):

Has it been a month? Yeah, right. It was. I think the last time we saw each other at Firestarter.

Jason Blum (01:51):

We slipped in a few test screens there before, only before Megatron took us over.

Kevin Goetz (01:55):

Or The Black Phone. Oh my God. The Black Phone is so good, but I'm not, I'm not really allowed to talk out of school, so you're going to have to say it and I can correct it.

Jason Blum (02:03):

I love talking about The Black Phone.

Kevin Goetz (02:05):

It's, it's sick. It's so sick in the best way possible. I mean, it really is.

Jason Blum (02:10):

Hey, Kevin, did you see that they just did a press release? You must love this where MGM is now releasing the test scores of the movies. Did you see that five minutes ago?

Kevin Goetz (02:21):

Oh my god, no.

Jason Blum (02:23):

Ron Howard's film test scored so well they moved it from the spring to the fall, and then they said it tested 97 in the top two boxes, 86% definitely recommend. And then they said it's MGMs best testing film.

Kevin Goetz (02:35):

It is, it is. I thought you meant never gotten a hundred, Kevin. That's bad. No, I've never gotten a hundred as the overall.

Jason Blum (02:43):

That have gotten…

Kevin Goetz (02:44):

I have gotten 100s in quadrants, like the younger females.

Jason Blum (02:48):

Wait, you've never had a movie that tested 100 or 99?

Kevin Goetz (02:50):

For an audience of 2-300? It's never happened. Really. Never. A hundred no, but in individual quadrants, yes. 

Jason Blum (03:00):

Well, we haven't tested Halloween Ends yet.

Kevin Goetz (03:02):

Well, there's always a first, but what I did, I will tell you because I worked on the Ron Howard movie. It is one of the highest testing movies I've ever tested. And so that's why they're…

Jason Blum (03:14):

What's it about?

Kevin Goetz (03:14):

It's these kids trapped in an underground flood.

Jason Blum (03:21):

Based on a true story. Oh, based on the rescue? Based on that?

Kevin Goetz (03:27):

Yes. Oh, I love some of these people that are writing nice things about both of us. But I have to tell you, Jason Blum has produced over 150 movies and television shows. Oh God. I think I've worked on, if not all, almost all, but maybe all of your movies for sure. For sure. Maybe a lot of the television programs as well. But Jason and I have shared popcorn or yogurt because Jason likes his yogurt, in hundreds of test screenings. Now, for those of you who don't know, here's what a test screening is. It's a time when before the movie comes out, we take a film and we test it to an audience just like you, or you know, people who are not in the business. I know a lot of you are in the business because I see here, but you shouldn't be showing up. If you sneak in, you are bad, bad, bad.

Kevin Goetz (04:21):

But Jason and I will test a movie, say months before it comes out. We'll do questionnaires with 2 to 300 people. Then we'll do a focus group of 20 people that stay afterwards. We'll dig a little deeper into what's going on, and then we'll produce a report for Jason and his director and colleagues to…it's like a prescriptive, right? A remedy. It's like saying, here's what you should do. These are the things that will make the movie better. They go off and make their changes. They come back, test it again, see if they've worked. Usually, they have. Sometimes, I mean Jason, we've seen movies of yours that have been good, that have gotten to great and I mean like a 20, 30% increase in scores, right? Over the course of that.

Jason Blum (05:09):

We've seen a few. Yeah. Yeah. It's a nail bite a situation. The first Purge was like that. The first Get Out movie was like that.

Kevin Goetz (05:17):

I was just going to ask you, what is the most, if you had to say the most or the biggest positive change during a test screening that you've ever seen?

Jason Blum (05:28):

I mean, there was a bunch of reshoots, but it was Ouija.

Kevin Goetz (05:31):

How so?

Jason Blum (05:32):

Well, Ouija I think went from like a 30 or a 40 to a 70 or something. It was huge. I don't remember exactly.

Kevin Goetz (05:39):

Also, Halloween. I remember Halloween did a huge jump, didn't it? When there was like an ending that wasn't altogether as satisfying as it could have been. Did you not reshoot a little of the first Halloween?

Jason Blum (05:54):

Yeah, well, the ending is the biggest thing that as you know, and people watching along, the biggest thing to make a movie test better is changing the ending that has the biggest impact. And if you have a great ending and the rest of the movie is just okay, it's much better off than the rest of the movie being great and the ending not being so good. If you have a great ending, it really it helps an enormous amount. We had that with Get Out. We changed the ending of Get Out.

Kevin Goetz (06:24):

Tell us what you did because I worked on that, of course.

Jason Blum (06:29):

Not the score so much, but you could feel when we were watching the movie that everyone was so with the movie, everyone was so in love with Daniel, and, and the way the movie ended was just such a downer. It was so sad. And I remember saying to Jordan, “You can't, you can't rob the audience of this experience. They’re in love with Daniel so much. You can't, you can't leave him in jail.” And Jordan did a new end, which didn't really change the scores, but I think it really changed the movie.

Kevin Goetz (06:58):

The thing about that movie was that movie was such a unique experience. It was like you had to sort of let it wash over you as opposed to being…it wasn't classified in a particular genre. I mean, you could dumb it down, if you will, to a horror movie, but it really was more than that. There were really dramatic elements. There were thriller elements. It was something that we hadn't seen before. So I think it was hard for people to classify. Wouldn't you agree with that?

Jason Blum (07:26):

Totally, totally. And that's marketing's job. If you can't classify a movie, it's very hard to sell it. So, marketing's job is to help classify it. And we marketed that movie really as a straight horror, scary movie, and people saw it for that reason. But when it came out, they felt fulfilled because it checked that box but it also checked a lot of other boxes.

Kevin Goetz (07:48):

Well, also some props to the Universal marketing team, because I have to say what they did, so geniusly was to find the commonalities that we were all terrified about, but also some of the cultural cues that were endemic to say the African American or black experience of institutional racism that were very subtle but were brought out in certain of the advertising materials. And I know because they came to us to help with the advertising materials, and it was one of the most fascinating pictures I had ever worked on from that standpoint. Just really cool.

Jason Blum (08:25):

Yeah, they did a terrific job I think marketing that movie, which was not an easy movie to market.

Kevin Goetz (08:32):

But what did you do in Ouija that made it, what did you that caused the 30-point gain?

Jason Blum (08:37):

We tested the movie and identified all sorts of problems that were nobody's fault, but in the first cut of the movie. And Mike Flanagan came and kind of wrote using your research and using all the reports from the audience and we were able to re-shoot a lot. It was in the beginning of my relationship with Universal. I remember Donna kind of looking at me saying like, ‘Honey, to sure you going to make save this movie? I'm not so sure.” And I remember saying to her, “Yes.” And then I remember calling Mike and saying, “Mike, this is a lot of money. You're sure this is going to work?”

Kevin Goetz (09:17):

<laugh>

Jason Blum (09:18):

And he did it. And I actually think the first Ouija movie actually still really holds up. Well, I think it's really cool.

Kevin Goetz (09:25):

It does, it does. I also want to mention for those of you watching, that this man is such a stud for a lot of reasons, aside from the fact that he's so handsome and charismatic, he truly is what he says he is, which is this -- he gives the filmmaker their time to work on the movie. And I've never really seen this in my whole career. I'm going to just say it, not as consistently, there are people that have done that clearly, but to allow your filmmakers to go off and try to actualize their visions is really commendable. Now what Jason finds is so brilliant, and he finds the sweet spot is once they do that. And Ron Howard says it in my book. He talks about this very much about how the audience, you know? Look, he says I picked a script.

Kevin Goetz (10:23):

I work on the script as the writer, I cast it, I shoot my version, I edit my version, I even hire my key, you know, department heads, et cetera. Then one day I give it to the audience and that's where the rubber hits the road. And I have to listen to the audience. And the audience is going to tell me what's working and what's not. And I have to listen. I'm not going to be tone deaf to that because what I set out to communicate may not be what was communicated. So, Jason, what you do so well is once you've allowed your filmmaker to have that and the rubber hits the road, now you say okay, here, let's listen to the audience. And this is why I think you're such a fan of test screenings and also a fan of the work that we do on my side of things, which is information.

Kevin Goetz (11:18):

You're just listening. If someone honks at you on the freeway, they’re an asshole, right? But if five people honk at you, you are the asshole. So, you have to know like, okay, maybe I really do need to listen to what they're saying and look in the mirror, filmmaker, and you step in and say, we can't ignore what people are saying. We've got to now make these changes. And I love that you do that. So, you really give the opportunity to folks and then you insert your own and Cooper’s, and Samuelson's and, and any of your other production folks, any producers and additional producers that may be involved, the studio. And that is really a great quality. And I think that is how you've gotten to over 5 billion of box office. That doesn't happen by accident. That happens because you're really listening to your audience

Jason Blum (12:13):

Yeah, no, I think test screenings are incredibly important and what I tell my directors is a similar thing of what you just said, which is that I always think your reports are great. I think the scores are great. And I know you always say, and I agree with you, that maybe the most important thing of all is reading all the individual cards which we always do, and which the director always does. And then you say, you know, if one thing comes up two or three times or whatever, no big deal. But if 60 people say this thing and it's not what you want them to be taking away from the movie, you’ve got to keep working on the movie because the movie isn't doing what you want it to do.

Kevin Goetz (12:52):

Hundred percent.

Jason Blum (12:54):

I think it's very important, very valuable information. And you know this, you don't have to do everything in it or not do everything in it, right? Great to know it, you know, it's great to know sometimes.

Kevin Goetz (13:06):

Exactly.

Jason Blum (13:07):

I didn't intend for the audience to take that away from this scene, but I'm glad they did, and I think that's cool.

Kevin Goetz (13:14):

Jay, Jay, what I've said to people often is whether or not you make, first of all, whether or not you make the suggestions as the doctor… The reason I got this moniker the Doctor of Audienceology was because Patrick Goldstein had called me that. That’s why my book's called Audienceology, because as a doctor, I have to come out and say your child's not that attractive or your child may be not well, and if you don't do this, this, or this, your child may not make it. You know, I have to come out and deliver that news. And it's sometimes not pleasant to do, but whether or not you make the changes or not is immaterial to my life. So I'm just a messenger. The original title of my book, Audienceology was called Don't Kill the Messenger. And it was changed by Simon and Schuster because they felt that was a little bit of a more broad way of looking at the audience, not me. In other words, Don’t Kill the Messenger is a story about Kevin's experience, but Audienceology is about you guys out there who are all giving your opinions to shape what we all do. But we're just providing information. If you choose to listen to it, great. If you don't, that's okay.

Jason Blum (14:31):

Yeah, exactly. But it's great to have, it’s great to have it.

Kevin Goetz (14:35):

And then Jason, I'm curious to know, talking about the next movie coming out theatrically is The Black Phone, right?

Jason Blum (14:44):

Yes.

Kevin Goetz (14:45):

And that's in June, correct?

Jason Blum (14:48):

Yeah. We have one more percolating before that, but we haven't announced it yet. Stay tuned.

Kevin Goetz (14:54):

Stay tuned. We will. But the other thing is, was there ever a time Jay, where you got your scores, you got the information and said, you know, we're not going to listen to, or pay attention to the scores. I'm going to trust my gut on this one, or we're going to trust our guts. We know that it's something here and we don't want, you know?

Jason Blum (15:21):

Yeah. Bunch of times. But Get Out was like, Get Out never tested. I mean, in test it never scored. When we tested it, we did a new ending. The scores didn't move. The scores were never very good on that movie. And we all trusted our gut. And you, I remember you loved the movie. We all loved the movie. I think when a movie is really original and there's no marketing, even if it's great, it often doesn't score that well. I mean, you'd know better than me, but for me, if it's very, very original and there's no marketing to it, then people don't know what it is. And so, they're reluctant to give it an excellent, right?

Kevin Goetz (16:01):

Well, it's totally true. And that's what I was kind of trying to say before you just said it more artfully, which is, yeah, it's like you couldn't characterize that movie in an easy box. Yeah. Especially because it was the first of its kind. Now of course, many have come out and tried to emulate and have not succeeded. And by the way, you know, the movie at that time was at the perfect time. It was when sort of the Black Lives Matter was reemerging as a really significant movement that was making its way into the zeitgeist. And it actually was before that. And it was a wakeup call to a lot of people. And it just hit that perfect resonance of authenticity and that perfect timing. So, you wonder if it was 10 years earlier, would it have worked? If it was released now, would it have worked? I often asked myself the question about a lot of movies.

Jason Blum (16:56):

Yeah. Jordan and I had dinner not long before the movie came out, just this, this is how it was. And he explained to me about woke

Kevin Goetz (17:07):

What did he say?

Jason Blum (17:09):

He said, well, what it meant then when it was just a word coming in is people who are aware and trying to do something about prejudice in the world. You know, that's what something woke was. I remember saying “am I woke Jordan?” He said, “You're very woke, Jason.”

Kevin Goetz (17:29):

<laugh>. Well, you are and you're a great ally. And by the way, if I did the stats on your movies, I would venture to say that you are probably maybe the most, if not one of the most, diverse filmmakers both on the director side, but also on the casting side. So, your movies look like America looks.

Jason Blum (17:54):

That comes from that spending time, a lot of time with you and listening, analyzing what the audience for our movies is and making the same choice that anyone would make. It's important that the people telling the stories look like the people who are consuming those stories. And, as you know, movie-going audiences in the United States are super diverse, way more diverse than directors. So, I've always thought it was good business to have storytellers with different backgrounds from different walks of life telling stories because they have different points of view about things. And I think the audience, not consciously, but I definitely think the audience picks up on that. The movies are interesting because it's like, huh, this is someone from a different point of view than all the other Hollywood movies I’ve been with.

Kevin Goetz (18:38):

Well, and it's also like your company. I know the people you employ are diverse. I have the same thing. How can I have a market research company, you know, Screen Engine/ASI is my company and I'm very proud of the diversity because how can you inform opinions and talk about audiences without having all the voices in the room represented? I don't get it.

Jason Blum (19:00):

Exactly. Exactly. And when you want people giving you feedback who have different points of view than you do. That's how you make good decisions.

Kevin Goetz (19:10):

Just put a pin in that for one second. I just need to take a break and when we come back, we'll pick it up.

Announcer (19:19):

Get a glimpse into a secret part of Hollywood that few are aware of, and that filmmakers rarely talk about in the new book, Audienceology, by Kevin Goetz. Each chapter is filled with never before revealed inside stories and interviews from famous studio chiefs, directors, producers, and movie stars, bringing the art and science of Audienceology into focus. Audienceology: How Moviegoers Shape the Films We Love from Tiller Press at Simon and Schuster available.

Kevin Goetz (19:52):

So, what do you say to a young filmmaker or any filmmaker who says that market research has too much influence on the movies that we see today?

Jason Blum (20:03):

I think in some cases it does. I think you would be the first person to say you shouldn't use market research as your Bible. You should use it as a tool, but it's not supposed to supersede everything else. You're supposed to use market research, you’re supposed to use feeling when you watch the movie with an audience, then you're supposed to use your own gut and then you make your art. So, I think in some cases that's right. But I've never had a conversation with you where you've said, “Well, this character isn't testing well, so cut them out of the movie.” You know, I think that's using market research in the wrong way.

Kevin Goetz (20:47):

I think that people who don't understand what we do or what I do often want to criticize it because they just don't know enough, you know? And so, they'll immediately think that it's ruining Hollywood, or it's dumbing it down. I have to tell you that I'm very proud of the work we do. What I like to say now is that it helps, like I said, actualize the vision of the filmmaker as opposed to inhibit it in any way. And it just may be that the filmmaker might have communicated one thing that doesn't seem to be coming across. There are a lot of movies that happened right in the beginning of the pandemic that never tested. And I remember there was a period of about six or eight months where I watched movie after movie that were 10, 15, half an hour too long, or had endings that were utterly unsatisfying or massive confusions where you were like, well, this took me out of the mood. And a lot of them did not go through the testing process. And I was struck by that. I was like, wow, this really is an interesting phenomenon. And I think since the earliest days of Hollywood, this is not a new thing. The test screenings existed with Charlie Chaplin and those guys back in…Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton taking their comedic sequences up to Hollywood Boulevard, you know, they were listening to audiences then.

Jason Blum (22:08):

Of course, of course. And I think one of the things that's scary about the streaming model is that you get paid up front regardless of how many people or how few people see your movie is that the pressure on the filmmaking team to make movies that deliver and bring people into a theater, have them pay $12 and sit down and watch a movie. Taking that pressure off the filmmaking team can negatively impact the quality of the movies that we're making. So, you know, that’s part of it. When you don't have that pressure, you know, you may say, well, I don't need to test anything, and I think we're seeing that. I think you saw that. I think that metrics are starting to matter more and more in streaming as well, which is going to make testing just as relevant in streaming as it does in theatrically released movies.

Kevin Goetz (23:16):

Let me add that. I also, forgive me folks, this is new for me, so I know I sometimes overlap. I realize there's a little lapse between the time Jason says or I answer or whatever. I've noticed that the streamers are testing more than ever now because they want to make the best they can possibly make the material. But Jason, how has that affected the selections of the movies you've made in the last say two years? Like, do you feel like you've changed how you're choosing the movies that you are viewing as theatrical versus ones that are going directly to streamers?

Jason Blum (23:53):

Yeah, unfortunately the type of movie that goes theatrical, it's gotten narrower and narrower and narrower. You know, there's an argument to be made…Get Out would be a streaming movie in 2022. Right now. It would be a streaming movie. It would've been made for like 20 million bucks, maybe 15 million bucks. It would've been a streaming movie. And I don't think it would've had nearly the impact on the culture that it had. And again, that's nobody's fault. That's the world that we live in, and we make a lot of streaming movies. But the fact that more people are watching movies at home where they're more comfortable certainly has an impact on what gets to a movie theater and what is getting to the movie theaters less and less.

Jason Blum (24:42):

Now, on the reverse side, I certainly think it's interesting. I don't know if they've announced it, but I keep hearing that Netflix and other streaming companies are now going to have 10 or 12 or 14 theatrical movies a year, and they're going to use the theatrical release to help marketing, to help get more people to pay attention to the movies on streaming. And I think we may see a change then. You know, I think that the collective experience of going to a big black box and watching a movie inside of it is not going away. But it's certainly changing in incredible ways.

Kevin Goetz (25:15):

Well, I'll comment on that because we've done extensive research on this. Clearly it's changing in a big way and it's not going away. Correct. But more people will actually go to the movie theater after the pandemic is over, I believe, but are seeing fewer movies. That's the difference. So, my question is, what makes a movie theatrical in your mind, mostly in your wheelhouse, which is mostly in the horror genre, what makes The Black Phone

Jason Blum (25:50):

Right now, this could change, but right now it's IP generated. The audience keeps saying, why do they keep making movies based on the same stuff? It's like, well, that's what the audience goes to see. They go to see Spider-Man, they go to see Halloween, they're going to go see Friday the 13th. Those are the movies right now that differentiate themselves enough to be theatrical for whatever reason. The audience feels like if you're going to see a movie based on something they've heard of before, it's worth going to the theater.

Kevin Goetz (26:17):

I think that's true. I think that's true for some movies like Halloween, like The Purge franchise, et cetera. But why do I think The Black Phone is theatrical? I will tell you; I think it's theatrical because it has an elevated sense of fun and that to me is the single biggest barometer of a theatrical experience.

Jason Blum (26:42):

What movies fall into that category in like the last six months? Like what, what is…?

Kevin Goetz (26:46):

Well, I can tell you that that is the single thing in consumer's minds of why they will pay money to leave their home. Spider-Man. Truly elevated sense of fun. You can go through all of the ones that were successful in the movie theater and sometimes they're more broad, like Spider-Man is really super broad. And sometimes…Scream, which was a success theatrically. Sing 2, success theatrically, but they’re for more specific audiences. They're not for necessarily everyone like Spider-Man was and that's why it had massive success. But I think the reason The Black Phone is theatrical compared to another horror movie that might not be is it has a different level of investment. Like I was viscerally involved. That's why we've added biometrics and stuff to our screening process and dials and stuff because I'm trying to catch lightning in a bottle with that. I'm trying to distill what makes that elevated fun so important that you say, I'm going to spend that money and leave my home. It's actually a call to action, isn't it?

Jason Blum (27:56):

Yeah, yeah. I guess that's true. I guess that's true. What is it? What am I going to go to that speaks to the collective experience, right? Like what am I going to do with other people that’s going to be fun?

Kevin Goetz (28:10):

I also think that's part of it elevated with. I don't think, like for me personally, I don't want to be around other people watching a movie. I love watching a movie by myself in a theater. That to me is when I watch a run through like of your movie. I'll come earlier and watch a run through. That to me is a wonderful time.

Jason Blum (28:29):

Now why is that? Why is that?

Kevin Goetz (28:32):

Because I don't like people talking. I don't like people talking. I don't, unless I'm talking, I don't like people on their cell phone unless it's my cell phone. I don't like people opening wrappers unless they're my wrappers. Do you know what I mean? So that's the reason. But I love the experience of that enclosed place, but I'm just not into being around a lot of folks.

Jason Blum (28:58):

I find that's amazing from someone who does test screenings. I always love seeing a movie with people in it, so you know, you can hear them and you're like, that's so funny to hear you say that.

Kevin Goetz (29:10):

I know, I know, but I spend my life with folks, and I love, I love what I do. And it really often gives you the feedback you need, particularly in a horror movie or like in a big comedy, let's say.

Jason Blum (29:25):

Yeah, right.

Kevin Goetz (29:27):

But still in all, if I had my choice, I would want to…I think everyone should own their own movie theater <laugh>.

Jason Blum (29:36):

We'll put that in the stimulus package.

Kevin Goetz (29:39):

That is a great idea. By the way, don't laugh, within a few years you're going to see homes being ordered. You know, like you'll go in and order and when you go in and order floors and I'll say, I'll take the marble floors and the granite countertops, oh, and a full screen wall screen in my master and in the den. And I would like the sound speaking system throughout the built-in sound speaker in the walls and ceiling, the Sonos or whatever it is, I do believe that's going to happen. It's happening already. I saw stuff at the Consumer Electronics Show that would…yeah, so you're going to see people and then the theaters start emulating the living room more. Our living rooms become the theater more. Then it really creates confusion for the audience because they're like, I only want to see something in a big screen with big sound and big, you know, that's the other conundrum, but you can emulate most 90% of every movie you could probably see if you have a really good system in your home

Jason Blum (30:48):

I don't know if this is good news or bad news, Kevin. I don't know if I should be excited or start to cry.

Kevin Goetz (30:54):

I think you should be excited because I think that…let me tell you why, because when you know your audience and when you know that elevated fun and when you can understand that going out of the gate, you're going to win more, I believe. Because you're not taking as many risks now. The art, we are making bigger bet movies going out the gate, so in that respect, I guess, but the risks go a little bit higher. The studios at least have always done a relatively good job of understanding innately what's theatrical and what's not. Now they're forced to really understand that before shooting a frame of film. That's the difference. It used to be after they shot it, they tested the movie, they would then decide, you know, at these scores, I don't know if we want to put good money after bad and spend more dollars, so we're going to therefore put it in a streamer. I think people like you now are a little more, it's more liberating I think to know that we're going to go into this movie knowing it's going to go on a streaming service, therefore we’ll make it for a price and we'll make more doubles than we will triples or home runs, but when we make that triple or home run, it's going to be a real big one.

Jason Blum (32:09):

Yeah, a hundred percent. I agree with that. Completely. Completely.

Kevin Goetz (32:13):

Yeah. Hey, so I know there's some questions that some people have had, and I was wondering if I could read a couple of them here. Let me see. I have one starting, so feel free guys to write your questions in, we'll get to as many as we can. I know Jason has a hard out, and he's nice enough to do this for me. Humphries, he's a freelance screenwriter, says, or asks, do you put more faith in the numbers audiences give, or watching the audience react during the film?

Jason Blum (32:54):

I'd say probably weight those equally. I think the numbers are important in a certain range. But I think it really depends on the movie. I think some movies, the audience goes crazy, and the numbers don't belie that. I keep using Get Outas an example of that. Some movies, the audience is kind of quiet and then it scores really well. So, I don't think there's a general one is more important than the other. I really think it depends from movie to movie.

Kevin Goetz (33:26):

And what about the next question from Alexia Gwynn, Founder of the Script Joint. On average, how many movie test screenings do you typically do per movie before the release?

Jason Blum (33:38):

Well, for us, hopefully not many because hopefully you do one or two and if the movie's great, you don't need to keep testing it. You only do more than one or two test screens if the movie is less than great. So, it's different. There are a few movies we've only tested once, which is terrific. Some movies we've tested 6, 7, 8 times. I'm sure Kevin has seen more than that. Because sometimes it takes a while to find the movie that the director wants to release.

Kevin Goetz (34:12):

And sometimes it's a DNA issue where you can test it six, seven times no matter what you do, it is what it is. And you have to understand that. I've never seen a movie get worse as a result of test screenings in 35 years, but I've not necessarily seen them get better.

Jason Blum (34:30):

Yeah, exactly.

Kevin Goetz (34:30):

But it always goes back to a previous cut, you know, and especially with digital editing, it makes it so much easier. So, there is a question, they want to know, tell us about your book, what’s in it, and what's my background? So, Jason, do you want to talk a little bit about my book just in terms of…?

Jason Blum (34:54):

You want to answer that?

Kevin Goetz (34:56):

Well, it's a little self-aggrandizing, but…

Jason Blum (34:59):

Tell us about your book. Tell us about Audienceology. Anyone who's watching this, who's a Blumhouse fan who's interested in movies should definitely get Kevin's book and read Kevin's book because it's like looking behind the door of the real, looking under the hood of how movies really get made and what really happens behind the scenes. It's a terrific book. Kevin, how would you describe it?

Kevin Goetz (35:23):

Well, thank you for that. Yeah, I mean, I conducted like 80 interviews with people, great filmmakers like Cameron Crow and I said Ron Howard. Studio people like Sherry Lansing and going back in time, with Dick Zanuck and Sam Goldwin and people like that. So, I got a really good sense of the history, a hundred-year history of testing movies. You know, when Jaws came around and Jaws has mentioned heavily in the movie, in the book rather, and like Star Wars, when those movies came in the late 70s, it really changed the stakes of testing because suddenly there were big advertising dollars spent. The movies needed to deliver on a certain level, and they were going wide for the first time. They were not going wide until like the late 70s. So more than ever, it's become kind of really important to test. So, I have interviews and so many great stories. It took me over 13 years to write the book and I want to say one of your other NBC Universal Comcast colleagues, Chris Meledandri, wrote my forward and really sets the tone for the book in a really cool way, and how important it's been for him.

Jason Blum (36:50):

And it's hard, isn't it really hard to change? I don't know anything about it. Isn't it hard or how do you test an animated movie? Because it's so hard to change them, isn't it?

Kevin Goetz (36:59):

No, actually it's easier in a way, but it's easier early on when you're in the pre-viz stage and you're in the steps.

Jason Blum (37:07):

Aren't you watching something that's so incomplete?

Kevin Goetz (37:10):

I'm going to tell you a little story. I tested a little movie about 30 years ago called Beauty and the Beast, and it was 95% sketch animation. It was in black and white. And it scored in the 90s.

Jason Blum (37:26):

Wow, that's amazing.

Kevin Goetz (37:28):

Because it didn't matter. It was a great, it was about the story and the music and those characters. And so, I believe that animated movies you can really take advantage of the testing process. We also have a product at Screen Engine/ASI called Test Drive and it's a live table read before you start shooting. We bring in professional actors and they read the script and the audience looks at it as if they're looking at a screening. So it's the same kind of questions.

Jason Blum (37:59):

Wow. Wow. Amazing. Amazing.

*Kevin Goetz (38:02):

Hey, so you get pace, and you get story clarity, confusions, is the ending working and it's really good with animation because they can re-craft and change, literally change the shape of it, making DNA changes. We just did that on a very big movie they made, it was everyone was with it. We used the dials that we have and the biometric devices which measure your skin response and your facial recognition. And we discovered that the first act was working really well, but as soon as it moved into the second act, the engine wasn't propelled, it wasn't moving it forward. They literally scrapped two thirds of the movie, went back to work on redoing almost the entire movie. Probably saved them tens of millions of dollars in production budget and in lost box office that never would've worked because there were such DNA issues and now, they're going to solve it. I'm very proud of that kind of contribution to the filmmaking process.

Jason Blum (39:07):

Wow. Wow. Amazing.

Kevin Goetz (39:10):

So, the book is not technical in the sense of dry, it's super enjoyable, super fun. I don't know if you saw, but my endorsements are from Judd Apatow, Sasha Baron Cohen, Ben Stiller, Charlize Theron, Peter Farrelley, all give back of book quotes on the process and how they've enjoyed working with me over the years, and they're the greatest. And just like you Jay, they get it, they get the importance of listening to the audience.

Jason Blum (39:46):

Yeah. Yeah. That's great. Well, we're in an art form which is for a broad audience.

Kevin Goetz (39:53):

I think that's a really good way to end this is to say, you just hit it on the head. When you are creating a novel, right? You can write the novel and then if you don't like it, you can put it in the back of your drawer. If you're a painter, you can create a painting and you can put it in the back of your closet if you don't like it. But when you're out as a filmmaker, yes, there's a vision of the director and/or producer, but you're working in an art form that requires great many artists, a production designer, a costume designer, a cinematographer, an editor who have so much to do with the success of movies, and then you have a studio financing a ton of money behind it.

Kevin Goetz (40:44):

Yeah. They get a voice. But what we have to do and where you come in, Jason, as the great producer you are, and you are a master producer because you are able to take all of those voices and synthesize them into the most actionable way to make the best thing possible, and that is for the widest audience possible. So you lean into our art form, which is why you're so exemplary. And you know, I love you so much as a friend. I've known you, I mean we know each other as friends as much as we know each other as colleagues, and your wife Lauren and your kids, and they're…you're just such, I mean, I can't speak highly enough of you for so many reasons, but you know, we are a reflection of the work we do out there in the world. And you know, your personal life and the guy you are, the good guy you are, and the fact that you are so passionate about what you do, you know, life imitates art, art imitates life. And that's you, my friend. 

Jason Blum (41:47):

Well, that's very nice of you to say and I appreciate you having me on. And the name of the book is Audienceology, which I love.

Kevin Goetz (41:54):

And you can get either the audio version or the physical version on Amazon or wherever books are sold. And by the way, if you want to watch a trailer, I made a trailer for it. If you go to KevinGoetz360.com.

Jason Blum:

Did you test the trailer?

Kevin Goetz:

Of course.

Jason Blum:

Good work, Kevin.

Kevin Goetz:

And I tested the name <laugh>.

Jason Blum:

Fantastic. I love it.

Kevin Goetz:

Jason, thank you so much.

Jason Blum:

Thank you.

Kevin Goetz:

I really appreciate it.

Jason Blum:

Good to see ya.

Kevin Goetz:

You're the best. Take care. Bye-bye.

Kevin Goetz (42:24):

To our listeners, I hope you enjoyed today's interview. For more about Jason's upcoming projects, visit blumhouse.com or follow his social media, including Twitter @Jason_Blum. For other stories like this one, please do check out my book Audienceology at Amazon or wherever books are sold, or through my website at KevinGoetz360.com. You can also follow me on my social media at @KevinGoetz360. Next time on Don't Kill the Messenger, we will welcome Roxanne and Deon Taylor, another really impressive producing and directing team. You won't want to miss this one. Until then, I'm Kevin Goetz, and to you, our listeners, I appreciate you being part of the moviemaking process. Your opinions matter.

 

HOST: Kevin Goetz
GUESTS: Jason Blum
PRODUCER: Kari Campano