USA Hopes ‘Purge’ Will Be Binge-Worthy

USA network hopes to get some help from the big screen with its much-anticipated Sept. 4 debut of scripted series The Purge.

The series looks to build on the success of The First Purge, the fourth edition of the Blumhouse Productions-produced thriller film franchise, which has drawn $68 million at the box office since its July 4 debut.

Overall, the four Universal Pictures-distributed Purge movies have garnered nearly $300 million in box office revenues, according to Box Office Mojo.

The 10-episode series picks up several years after the events of The First Purge, which chronicles what happens during one night of the year when all crimes are legal. Two characters from the film will be among the many profiled during the series, USA said.

The franchise’s transition from big to small screen will allow for more character development than was showcased in the films, The Purge creator James DeMonaco said.

“The real estate of 10 hours that a series provides is almost a better format for The Purge,” he said. “It allows us to really dive into characters and truly explore the motivations as to why anyone would ever turn to violence for an answer on this night.”

The Purge is one of several film franchises being turned into scripted fare on both traditional TV and streaming platforms, as companies look for familiar content to help break through the TV industry’s clutter of nearly 500 scripted series.

This Friday (Aug. 31) Amazon’s Prime Video will debut Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, a series based on the-novels that have spawned such theatrical films as The Sum of All Fears, Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games.

USA Network itself is in development on Tread-stone, a drama series based on the Jason Bourne movie franchise.

Bill McGoldrick, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment president of scripted content, said The Purge is a perfect fit for the network’s lineup of broad-appeal, high-profile programming.

“USA loves big, broad IP [intellectual property] like this that we can get our fan base excited about,” he said. “We think The Purge is a franchise that lends itself to extend beyond the movie and into a series where the whole night can be told through multiple character points of view in a way that you really have the time to tell it.”

The Purge launches in the wake of the network’s recent cancellation of another movie-based series, The Shooter, after three seasons. That series, based on the 2007 film of the same name and starring Ryan Phillippe, had a strong run on the network, McGoldrick said.

“You have to make difficult choices and clear some runway for some stuff that you have coming next,” McGoldrick said. “We have no bad feelings [about the show.]”

While there’s always a concern that fans of the film franchise won’t follow it to television, McGoldrick has high hopes The Purge will join its lineup of successful original series, including Emmy-winning drama Mr. Robot and Emmy-nominated sophomore series The Sinner.

“There’s always a concern when you take a really high IP that’s still so relevant, and that’s had so much life to it, which was proven with the success of the last movie,” he said. “When you start to think about our audience and what we’ve done recently with Mr. Robot, The Sinner and how we created urgencies around those shows, combined with the massive audience we have with the WWE, I do have healthy expectations for this.”

DeMonaco said he already has some thoughts regarding a second season of The Purge if the show is successful. Further, he hasn’t ruled out a fifth Purge movie.

“I thought it was over at four, but the numbers on [The First Purge] are asking for a fifth [film], and I actually have a good idea for it,” he said.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.