Weekend Recap: Some Paranormal Activity at the box office

I don’t know what’s better: super-low-budget horror film Paranormal Activity breaking insane box office records or the fact that I don’t have to talk about Couples Retreat because of it.

If you haven’t heard of Paranormal Activity yet, don’t worry. It only means that you don’t follow trending topics on Twitter, which is acceptable. Believe me, however, you are far from done hearing about this movie if this is your first time.

“Activity” is what The Blair Witch Project was to cinematic lore only it’s apparently ten times better. Made off a $10 ,000 budget by an Israeli-American named Oren Peli, it’s a camcorder-shot film about a couple moving into a suburban home that encounters a demonic presence.

But it must really be about a hell of a lot more than that to pull a completely unprecedented $7.9 million dollars out of only 160 theaters nation-wide. That’s nearly $50,000 dollars per movie theater. That means Peli could have gone to one of these theaters, sat around collecting the money himself all weekend, and made a profit on his movie.

This weekends actuals:

  1. Couples Retreat – $34.2 M (weekend) … $34.2 M (gross)
  2. Zombieland – $14.8 M … $47.6 M
  3. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – $11.5 M … $95.7 M
  4. Paranormal Activity – $7.9 M … $9.1 M
  5. Toy Story/Toy Story 2 3D – $7.7 M … $22.7 M
  6. Surrogates – $4.2 M … $32.7 M
  7. The Invention of Lying – $3.3 M … $12.3 M
  8. Whip It – $2.8 M … $8.8 M
  9. Capitalism: A Love Story – $2.6 M … $9 M
  10. Fame – $2.5 M … $20 M

So the question becomes, how did “Activity” pull this off? Two weekends ago, it was being released in only 12 theaters nation-wide, making $77.8 thousand. The number of theaters expanded to 33 and then to 160. Word is that Paramount was only expanding this movie to people who “demanded” it. Theaters that begged for it and people online that asked for it.

Apparently Paramount concentrated on going viral for this film to create the buzz it knew it would have because of the film’s quality (they had apparently proposed to Peli to reshoot the film with a bigger budget, which says a lot of their confidence in it). I had seen a lot of articles online and kept glancing over them until I saw so many that I had to at least see what this was about.

Make no mistake ladies and gents, we are the verge of cultural phenomenon. If just Internet buzz can get that many tickets sold in that few theaters, imagine what a wide release of 1,000 could do. Screw Saw VI, this is where it’s at. Depending on how big they expand, box office predictions will be tough next week. I’m not thinking this film could jump to No. 1, but it’s easier to predict films when they follow the trend and lose money week to week, not gain more of it.

To recap the rest of the Box Office, I was dead on, although this weeks’ biggest surprise, “Activity,” came close to topping even the “Toy Story” movies. This week’s biggest flop, The Invention of Lying did quite the opposite of stay strong, dropping more than 50% to No. 7, that’s steeper than all the rest of last week’s Top 5. That tells you just how many couples went to see “Retreat” after all and sucked away “Lying’s” audience.

1 Comment

  1. Once every few months I’m dragged kicking and screaming to see a new film. I can’t stand wasting my hard-earned dollar on the crap Hollywood throws at us these days, but every once in a while I’m pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoy a movie. This was definitely one of those rare times.

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