Friday, November 6, 2009

Paranormal Activity - The 100 Million Dollar Movie

(Note - I began writing this blog a few weeks ago and meanwhile Paranormal Activity has taken the box office by storm. Going to see if I can iron out some of my thoughts on this modern day phenomenon and finally post it albeit weeks too late.)

Paranormal Activity popped up on my radar in early to mid-September. Initially I was aware of it, but I just kind of observed it from a far. Thrillers and horror films are not usually in my palate. I respect the genre, it's just not one that draws me in.

What's funny was that around the time that Paranormal Activity was floating in my subconscious, I had a great ghost story exchange with a few friends. Every so often, I seem to get into these conversations where everyone starts telling 'real-life' ghost stories. On this occasion my mind was slowly churning on a naturally based ghost movie. Not horror, but thriller. Actually similar to what Paranormal turned out to be. Who knows, maybe a scary thriller I will one day tackle.

Well, just as these ideas were lightly floating in my head, I finally decided to investigate Paranormal Activity further. As I began to investigate Paranormal, I could already see that it to had some tremendous word of mouth already in place. I told Karen that day that I wanted to bring the filmmakers on our Film Courage radio show as soon as possible. I said if we can get them on, we will conform to their schedule. I had a sense from what I was seeing that this movie could do very well. I thought it would perform better than indie sensation Humpday which made $400,000 in limited release. Keep in mind, I came across this movie before it began it's theatrical run. Everyone I was telling about the film had never heard of it.

And now look what it has done. The right movie at the right time with the right marketing strategy. It is amazing that it sat on the shelf for 2 or 3 years before being resurrected this fall.

When I first saw the trailer I thought it was clever. It's not the first time I have seen audience reactions, lines of people, commentaries, etc.

As I sat back and reflected on the trailer and it's impact on me, I wasn't thinking about the film's content. For whatever reason, I was thinking of a roller coaster.

How often have you seen that? A movie experience that is more like boarding and riding a roller coaster than seeing a movie. I will explain. Most often, movies are made as a passive experience for the movie-goer. They are allowed to peer in the window glass of the movie screen, to observe, to be shown other worlds and other ways of life. It is rare that a movie not only allows you to look in through this magical window, but puts you into the world of the story and allows you to participate. I believe this is a function that is underutilized in the grand world of cinema. This interactive ingredient of Paranormal Activity to me is the backbone of it's success. This gives it a word-o-mouth edge that most films do not have no matter what the budget. It is the secret that makes Paranormal Activity not just a movie to see, but to experience. The same way we do not someone to tell us what it was like to ride on some colossal roller coaster. We want to experience it first hand ourselves.

It certainly helps that a horror film can have the anxiety and adrenaline build-up we often face before boarding a roller-coaster. We anticipate a unique thrilling experience.

I believe we are going to see quite a few 'copycat' ideas and films attempting to capitalize on what they believe to be the Paranormal Activity formula. If they are wise, they will be cognizant of the 'roller coaster' appeal that was marketed and delivered by PA.

On another note, because my instincts were correct and because we acted so fast, we were able to book the Executive Producer (the director is unavailable as he is shooting his next film) of Paranormal Activity on an upcoming show of Film Courage (November 22nd). Can't wait for this one! Going to be an early Thanksgiving gift to all of us.

If you have any questions you would like to ask the Executive Producer of Paranormal Activity, please leave a comment with this blog, or email us at, or interact with us 'live' on November 22nd via Twitter (@filmcourage).

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