How Jordan Peele Brings Originality Back to Hollywood

How Jordan Peele Brings Originality Back to Hollywood

Back in April of 2016, Jordan Peele, alongside his co-star Keegan Michael-Key, opened their first major theatrical outing in the form of Keanu, which unfortunately underperformed at the box office, taking in around $9 million during its opening weekend and barely doubling that before the end of its run. After such an unfortunate performance, no one would have expected that Peele would soon become one of the most talked about names in Hollywood thanks to his directorial debut, Get Out. The horror-comedy-thriller gained widespread acclaim for its sharp social commentary and effective blending of genres. However, the question remains as to how the project got produced after audiences had seemingly little interest in either part of the duo following their 2016 dud; the answer, however, lies in the details.

For the past several years, producer Jason Blum has been changing the horror genre through his Blumhouse production company, which creates a plethora of horror films each year, many of which receive nationwide theatrical releases despite budgets of around $5 million or less. Among their most notable titles are the Halloween reboot, The Purge, Paranormal Activity and, of course, Get Out. The collective budget of the four aforementioned titles was just under $18 million, yet the combined worldwide take of the four was nearly $800 million. Blum is also one of those who can take credit for the success of Get Out, alongside fellow producer Sean McKittrick, who was introduced to Peele through Key while shooting a film. McKittrick was the one who originally opted to finance Get Out, with Jason Blum hopping in as soon as he learned about the project. Blum also went on to be a producer on 2019’s Us, Jordan’s sophomore outing that earned more than $250 million against a budget of just $20 million.

What’s the lesson to be learned here? Well, as one of the few fully original (non franchise) titles to earn over $100 million domestically in recent years, Get Out is proof that there is still an audience for originality in Hollywood; even with a budget of just $4.5 million, the thriller made more than double that on its opening day alone, before making more than 55 times that worldwide when all was said and done. Additionally, Us was no slouch either, with a worldwide total almost identical to that of Get Out, albeit against a higher production budget as a result of Peele’s newfound street cred in Hollywood.

So where does one go after such a successful pair of projects? Well, Peele hasn’t exactly been slacking when it comes to beefing up his resume. He produced last year’s Best Picture nominee BlacKkKlansman, and will serve as the executive producer on 2020’s Candyman reboot, as well as serving as the host of the newly rebooted Twilight Zone series, which premiered to solid critical reception when it launched back in April. Peele has also stated that he has plans for an additional three thrillers after Us, after signing a first-look deal with Universal Pictures to produce several more titles through Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions.

Regardless of where Peele’s next films go, or whether or not they’re able to capture the same level of cultural relevance as his first two, the comic-turned-director has already defied all expectations that had been set up earlier in his career, and his influence on the horror genre during the past several years will not go unnoticed. Other directors have taken notice, and the trend of ‘socially relevant thrillers’ are catching on in a big way. Wherever the future may take the genre, Peele’s mark on it will surely not be forgotten any time soon.

By Matt Dekonty