Mid-Budget Movies Are Dying? Producer of ‘Ambulance,’ ‘Scream’ Begs to Differ

William Sherak Ambulance
JUSTIN W UNGARO/ Universal Pictures via Everett Collection

In the pandemic-impacted movie marketplace, it might seem like the only films that succeed in theaters these days are blockbuster titles featuring superheroes. But that’s not the case, according to William Sherak, one of the principals at Project X Entertainment.

The company already proved the staying power of mid-budget movies with the success of Paramount Pictures’ “Scream,”  the horror franchise that returned to form at the box office in January. Now, Project X is looking to do it again with the April 8 release of Universal Pictures’ “Ambulance” — an action flick starring Jake Gyllenhaal directed by Michael Bay — for which Sherak has high hopes lightning will strike twice.

“The teams at both Universal and Paramount, when they planted the flag and said these will be theatrical movies, they turned on those marketing machines,” said Sherak on the latest episode of the Variety podcast “Strictly Business.” “And even though they are not the size of Marvel movies, when you see the campaigns behind both of them, you feel like they are big, big events that you are supposed to see in a movie theater.”

Project X is focused on scoping out titles that don’t require breaking the bank to be financially viable.  “When you’re in the of mid-budget range, your cash-break number is such a lower number where I think we also have to redefine success, right?” said Sherak, who runs Project X with Paul Neinstein and James Vanderbilt. “Success no longer has to be $800 million at the box office with a mid-budget movie.”

But that’s just the beginning for this ambitious company intent on pursuing M&A in hopes of becoming Hollywood’s next mini-major.

“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and SoundCloud.