Paramounts’ “Paranormal Activity” is a good example of how simple marketing works when you have an fresh concept to promote. The movie was made for around $15 million, and has grossed $64 million in one weekend, and that number is expected to exceed 100 million. How did this happen to a movie with a marketing budget of $10 million, which is paltry compared to most films?
Paramount relied heavily on advanced midnight screenings, and viral buzz on the Internet. It’s been a trending topic on Twitter for weeks. It also helped that a big name celebrity declared he was spooked by it: Steven Spielberg said that when he saw the movie, strange things happened around his house. He thought his DVD was haunted. More than the clever, low-budget marketing, the success of the movie tells us that consumers want new, fresh and different ideas even if they come in a primitive, low-budget package. Corporate execs think they want the familiar or maybe they are just comfortable giving us the familiar because it has helped pay their salaries in the past.
Most studios in town passed on Paranormal Activity, so kudos to Paramount for some risk taking. As the LA Times wrote, studios with Harry Potter-style franchises are less likely to risk a long-shot bet. “It’s a studio like Paramount, about to lose its wildly successful Marvel franchises to Disney, which is most open to making an audacious gamble.”