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Theater Chains Are Refusing to Screen Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension

| 16 Oct 2015 19:03

No, this is not the latest marketing scheme by the Paranormal Activity folks to get asses in seats -- at least, not overtly.

Although it might not have come anywhere near the success of the original incarnation, last winter's fifth entry in the Paranormal Activity series, The Marked Ones, did manage to gross over $32 million on a modest $5 million budget. With the franchise reeling in an average of $76 million per film, it was all but assured that another entry would be coming out this year.

And next year. And probably the next ten years after that.

But thanks to Paramount's unique release strategy for the upcoming Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, we might see a distinct drop in the franchise's box office numbers, mainly because mega theater chains like Regal and Cinemark are refusing to play it.

The issue, according to The Hollywood Reporter, is that Paramount will be releasing The Ghost Dimension through their VOD service just 17 days after it opens, all but killing the initiative of moviegoers to actually, you know, go to the movies to see it.

Film companies argue that some types of films, such as genre titles like Paranormal Activity, have a short theatrical shelf life, yet are still bound by the 90-day theatrical window set by theater owners. Regal CEO Amy Miles publicly criticized the pact struck between Paramount, AMC and Canada's Cineplex, saying Regal would reserve its screens for traditional releases.

That means Ghost Dimension will only go out in roughly 1,400 North American locations when opening Oct. 23 - compared to 2,883 for the last title and well north of 3,000 theaters for each of the previous three films.

In the case of Paranormal Activity, it turns out that these film companies are right on the money (pun sooo intended) when it comes to the films' shelf life in theaters. The Marked Ones made roughly 75% of its 32 million dollar gross in the first two weekends and was dropped from over 2,000 theaters to just over 500 by the end of the month. Likewise, the last three PA movies did over 50% of their total theatrical revenue on opening weekend, with Paranormal Activity 2 hauling in 48% of its domestic gross during its $40m debut weekend.

That said, it's not that hard to see the theaters line of logic here. With streaming services becoming an ever-popular go-to for film fans, big chains are being forced to scrape every dime they can out of each screening. Reserving a screen for a movie that will be available on demand in two weeks rather than a traditional, 90-day run could cost these chains big money that they can't afford to lose.

Forbes' Scott Mendelson, on the other hand, thinks that the big theater chains might ultimately be shooting themselves in the foot with this protest.

"Horror films like Paranormal Activity 6 are glorified one-weekend wonders anyway, and this release pattern on a more regular basis could actually help theaters and smaller studios," he writes.

"Horror movies in general are not terribly leggy. But instead of keeping the film in theaters even though the demand has dried up weeks ago, you can instead bring in something else new, something else that is either a small-scale horror movie or the kind of independent film that may well have been a mainstream theatrical release a decade or so ago before tent poles took over the multiplexes with their 2D/3D/IMAX/PLF needs."

It's an interesting idea, but something I don't see a lot of major chains picking up on, sadly. The moviegoing experience is shifting more and more toward an actual experience than just a viewing nowadays -- look no further than the evolution (or de-evolution) of the horror genre as proof of this. Paranormal Activity is ironically one of the few modern horror franchises that relies on something resembling subtlety as its selling point (looking at you, Saw), so to think that theaters would start bringing in niche, low-budgeted, and non-marketed genre films to make their money back is unrealistic to say the least.

Which is a shame, really, because there's risk in that strategy, and filmmaking is all about taking risks. At least, it once was.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

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