As Paranormal Activity passes the $100 million mark, Paramount Pictures is celebrating a huge profit on a tiny investment. While the original budget figure is $15,000, the studio spent quite a bit more than that on sprucing up the movie, prints and about $10 million in marketing. After only five weekends of national release as of Friday, the movie is now the top-grossing R-rated thriller of the decade.
Several studio marketing execs agree that Paramount’s online marketing team took advantage of the perfect scenario–a horrific mock-documentary that was creepily realistic. But some caution that this is a one-time shot. They think the movie capitalized on audiences responding to a Blair Witch-style “it’s true, it’s real” phenomenon. I’d argue that the marketing cannily built on audience reaction to the movie being actually scary. “Tweet your scream” worked for Paranormal Activity, but similar campaigns activating moviegoers could also work on other films–as long as word-of-mouth was strong. It could save the studios millions. Why not build up to $100 million for a targeted $10 million instead of the usual wide release blast campaign? Again, an original believable psychological horror tale scored with moviegoers far more than a tired Saw VI which limped away from theaters and topped out at $26 million.
IM Global’s Stuart Ford has been trying to sell North American rights to writer-director-producer Oren Peli’s next film, Area 51, which is budgeted at $5 million and is already filming with another cast of unknowns. While Paramount and several other studios show no interest, Ford says a deal is in the offing.