Tuesday, October 13, 2009

With Help from Internet, 'Paranormal Activity' Goes Nationwide

Making huge buzz across Facebook and Twitter the past few weeks has been the little film that could, Paranormal Activity.

What started as a quiet and small 13 theater release in various “college” towns across the country turned into a nation of horror fans literally demanding the film be released nationwide and conversely one of the most impressive uses of the internet’s fastest growing social networking tools, a game plan that might change the landscape of film in the future.

The internet has been credited to the success of a lot of various bands, films, artists, you name it. But has there ever been a film screening decided by the general public before? Using eventful.com, director Oren Peli encouraged fans to “demand” where the film is played next, the first time a film studio used the service to virally promote and release a film. The film sold out 12 of its first 13 showings, with the one non sellout being accredited to the fact that a Penn State football game stole the attention of much of the prospective audiences.

With the successful use of internet tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and Eventful, Paranormal Activity managed to gain more sellouts and more demand for a wider release. Most recently the film moved to 40 larger markets and began playing at all hours of the day, and not just the previous midnight-only showtimes. This past weekend the film grossed an impressive $7,066,000 while playing in just 160 theaters, a total that averages out to be $44,163 per theater.

And then the final challenge for eager viewers was given. Reach 1,000,000 demands for the film on Eventful and the film would go nationwide, giving everyone a chance to be scared by the film that is being lauded as one of the most terrifying horror films in years. On Saturday, October 10th, the ticker on Eventful reached the necessary total to award the film its nationwide release, which will begin on Friday, October 16th.

It isn’t often that you find an independent film that cost $15,000 to make receive this kind of buzz. And this achievement is one worth looking at closely, trying to figure out how exactly social networking devices like Twitter helped spread the word. With a busy and hardworking person manning the film’s official Twitter account, @TweetYourScream, the account has managed to accumulate more than 400 tweets, mostly rebroadcasting how scared other fans on Twitter were while watching the film.

This word of mouth technique proved to be successful in letting Paramount Pictures know exactly what the fans wanted. In past years a success story like this would not only be impossible, but something that got lauded at. The only previous way for fans to let studios know what they wanted was to let them know through box office totals. Forget sending the message right to them in words.

And I can only hope that this customer-studio relation continues in the future. Far too often the little guy is given the shake. It’s easy to forget that cinema is a business. But I do think Paramount is about to be rewarded for their experimental release procedure. All I ask is that horror fans join me this weekend and show Paramount and the rest of Hollywood that they made the right choice by giving us a voice.

No comments: