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Following the failure of The Mummy in 2017, Universal scuttled plans to build a series of interconnected monster movies in the MCU-esque Dark Universe. But Universal still wanted to leverage its classic monster characters and had to find a new way to do so post-Dark Universe. The first product of Universal’s new approach is last weekend’s The Invisible Man. And if you want evidence of just how different these two films are, look no further than how much cheaper The Invisible Man was to make than The Mummy.
Universal had grand ambitions for The Dark Universe and it spent accordingly to make The Mummy a success. The Alex Kurtzman film cost a massive $350 million including production and marketing costs. So when it ended its run with $80.2 million domestic and $409.2 million worldwide, it simply wasn’t enough, losing Universal quite a bit.
Now consider The Invisible Man. Leigh Whannell’s take on the classic horror character was produced by Jason Blum and the horror centric Blumhouse Productions, which is known for producing high quality horror movies on a low budget. The Invisible Man was no different because according to Variety, the Elisabeth Moss film cost a mere $7 million to produce.
The Invisible Man’s $7 million production budget does not include marketing or distribution costs, but I think it’s safe to say that they won’t add another $343 million to bring this thing up to The Mummy levels of extravagance. Even if you compare The Mummy’s production budget of $125 million, not counting marketing, it is still over seventeen times the cost of The Invisible Man.
So to say that The Invisible Man was cheap compared to The Mummy doesn’t even begin to cover it. But while $7 million is obviously a much less risky spend than $350 million, no matter how much you spend, it’s all about trying to get a return on that investment and make as much profit as possible. And on that front, The Invisible Man is already in a far better position than The Mummy.
Amazingly, the opening weekends between this big-budget action film and this low-budget horror/psychological thriller are not that different. The Mummy opened to $31 million in June of 2017 and The Invisible Man just became 2020’s first horror hit, debuting to $29 million. And despite coronavirus fears abroad, The Invisible Man still managed to make $20 million internationally as well.
We may not know what the marketing and distribution costs are for The Invisible Man, but it’s safe to say that it is well on the way to profitability, a feat its Dark Universe predecessor failed to achieve. In so doing, The Invisible Man validates Universal’s strategy to steer away from a cinematic universe and instead take each film on a case-by-case basis.
The small budget definitely worked for The Invisible Man, but just because a film is made on the cheap doesn’t mean success is inevitable. Many small budget horror movies break out, but there are plenty that flop. Just this year The Grudge, The Turning and Fantasy Island all had production budgets under $15 million and all failed to set the box office ablaze.
It can’t be overlooked that The Invisible Man is a good, well-reviewed film and the aforementioned titles, in addition to The Mummy, are well... not. If Universal continues to deliver the quality moving forward, it will further validate the studio’s wise decision to abandon The Dark Universe idea. And unlike The Dark Universe, which would have likely seen homogeneity in terms of budgets and tones, not every new Universal monster movie will necessarily be a small-budget film like The Invisible Man.
The new strategy for films based on these monster characters is filmmaker focused and according to a Universal exec, any budget range. That means that future monster movies won’t exclusively be sub-$10 million films. If a filmmaker’s vision calls for a bigger budget, that is potentially an option, assuming the justification for that budget and hope to receive a return on that investment makes sense.
We’ll see what happens with the Invisible Woman movie from Elizabeth Banks and the Bride of Frankenstein movie and Dark Army, but for now, Universal is batting 1000 in the post-Dark Universe era.
The Invisible Man is now playing. Check out our 2020 Release Schedule to see what other movies you can look forward to this year.