Paranormal Activity, the super-low-budget movie that’s actually been lying around for two years, gets a high rise in profits and it has The Blair Witch Project to thank. And when I say “super-low-budget”, I’m mean embarrassingly low. Blair Witch was around $20,000, but Paranormal Activity managed to record over that figure with $15,000, which results as a slap to the face (or forehead) of Hollywood movie marketers.
Another major difference is that Blair Witch attempted to sell itself as a documentary which is actually wasn’t at all and this angered the audience quite a bit before they even saw it. Paranormal Activity on the other hand is relying much more on the reaction of the audience to market itself. Before understanding how this is being done, here’s a little background.
The horror flick directed by Oren Peli, an up and coming San Diego filmmaker, began garnering attention to the extent of what some are calling a cult following about a year ago after giving the film a screening at the 2008 Slamdance Film Festival. Who else but Steven Spielberg of all people was originally interested in directing a re-make of the film with a much larger budget (the blockbuster director obviously hasn’t gotten enough out of paranormal movie making). He intended to put the original cut into the DVD release as a DVD extra, but then carried the film over to Paramount/DreamWorks where it’s subsequently taken off as is.
The grassroots-marketing use of the Paranormal Activity movie’s web page is what is allowing the film to be brought to select theaters, literally by the audience requesting (or “demanding” as the website says) it to their local theater by pressing a button, and the movie has Josh Greenstein and Megan Colligan of Eventful to thank. Eventful provides “a user-generated entertainment booking site of sorts, for a campaign that goes far outside the traditional route.” Paramount then uses the info collected from the website to decide where to market the movie through radio and T.V. with the Paranormal Activity movie trailer, which barely shows much from the film and more of the reactions from the audience at Hollywood viewings.
The method is being talked of as an “experiential sell” by Greenstein and is certainly doing quite a job of it, especially after watching the tweet counter on twitter go up to 870 from 25 over a half-hour and from 5:00 to 5:30 ON A MONDAY MORNING. What’s more is that, thus far, the strategy is quite a success. Over the weekend of October 2nd, 2009 the movie was shown exclusively at 12 theaters in the U.S. at midnight only and grossed $500,000. That’s a 3,333% profit so far. It should be interesting to see what happens now that Paramount has released it to 170 theaters at regular viewing times, though not surprising in the least as it displays the cliche reaction of a giant corporation when dealing with an independent work of art. It seems that this move would kill the whole concept that Eventful has going, that’s made such a huge return, wouldn’t it?
Regardless, while Eventful has previously worked with the tour scheduling of comedians and musicians, Paranormal Activity has scratched a new notch in Eventful’s history, setting a record for film after their original projection for demands was 100,000 and ended up surpassing that in a matter of days.
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