Box-office hit on a budget

Box-office hit on a budget
The Purge's cast, including (from far left) Max Burkholder, Lena Headey and Ethan Hawke, worked for minimal pay.

UNITED STATES - How small was the budget for the new horror thriller The Purge, which imagines a future in which all crime is legalised for 12 hours every year?

So small that its star, Ethan Hawke, slept on producer Jason Blum's sofa for the five weeks of filming and worked for next to nothing, with no trailer on the set or a chauffeur to drive him there.

But the gamble paid off, both for Hawke and Blum (inset), who took no producer's fee either. Both are instead getting a cut of the profits from the film, which cost a scant US$3 million (S$3.8 million) to make but has now earned more than US$83 million worldwide - the biggest box-office-to-budget ratio for a Hollywood film this summer.

The Purge, which opens in Singapore on Thursday, also topped the box office when it opened in the United States in June, making it the cheapest summer flick to do so in 25 years.

Blum's production company Blumhouse specialises in low-budget supernatural horror flicks such as Paranormal Activity (2007) and Insidious (2010), which both went on to become lucrative franchises. And The Purge could be headed the same way, with a sequel now in the works.

At a press event for the film in Beverly Hills earlier this year, the 44-year-old told Life! and other press that he loved the idea behind The Purge, which follows Hawke's character and his family as they experience their seventh Purge, an annual ritual instituted by the government as a sort of cathartic release for society's criminal impulses.

The director, James DeMonaco, had originally pitched it to him "and then went off and tried to make it more expensively, which I was not interested in doing. And then he came back and we made it with my model".

Blum's model is to make a film for under US$5 million - which is peanuts compared to most studio films - but to make it in such a way that a studio will then buy it for a "wide release" at cinemas across the country, as opposed to a handful in a few major cities.

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