Half-priced hoodies: Donate $8/month and get a cozy Marketplace hoodie today. Donate Now

‘Paranormal’ a big hit on a small budget

Bob Moon Oct 26, 2009

‘Paranormal’ a big hit on a small budget

Bob Moon Oct 26, 2009


Kai Ryssdal: I’ve said before on the show that I don’t do scary movies, so there’s absolutely zero chance that I’m going to go see a film called “Paranormal Activity.” My personal issues aside, though, the movie’s going gangbusters. Paramount has already made more than $60 million from it. Not bad for a film that cost the studio just $300,000 to get made. This being Hollywood we’re talking about, Paramount is said to be considering a sequel. But is that really a good idea? I mean, we all remember the “Blair Witch Project.” But does anyone remember “Blair Witch Two”? Anyone? Bob? Bob Moon?

BOB MOON: I seem to recall the “Blair Witch Project” grossed $140 million a decade ago. But I’d almost forgotten its sequel took in just $26 million.

So when the head of Paramount says the studio is already considering a sequel to a movie that’s so reminiscent of Blair Witch, you don’t have to search far to find skeptics.

JOHN HORN: It had to be a guerilla movie made in somebody’s garage, or it wouldn’t be what it was. And I think if the studios tried to make it, it would be a big, bloated, star-laden flop.

John Horn follows the movie business for the Los Angeles Times. He says DreamWorks and Paramount wanted to remake the original movie into a full-budget production, and release this version only as an bonus feature on the DVD.

HORN: The studios are largely incapable of doing anything on a small scale and that’s been, you know, a huge problem for them. They are much better equipped, and have the aptitude and interest and kind of institutional knowledge to do movies like Star Trek or Transformers or Harry Potter.

Box office analysts credit much of this movie’s success to a savvy marketing campaign, which got a mostly young audience spreading the word through Twitter and Facebook.

SCENE: Did you hear that? Where did you think that came from? Shh..shh…Is anybody down here?

There’s another problem with doing a sequel anywhere near the claimed $15,000 production cost of the original.

Paul Dergarabedian watches box office returns for Hollywood.com.

PAUL DERGARABEDIAN: Whenever this happens, when you have a film that’s an unexpected hit with a low budget, inevitably everybody’s price tag goes up, and it’s virtually impossible to recreate a movie like that for that budget.

Even so, Dergarabedian says with the phenomenal success of this movie, Paramount would be foolish not to consider Paranormal Activity Two.

DERGARABEDIAN: They’ve made so much money off the first one, they have some, you know, gambling money to work with here, and I think it’s worth a shot.

In Los Angeles, I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.  

Half-priced hoodies! 🎉 

This weekend only, get a Marketplace zipup hoodie when you donate $8/month. Don’t wait this offer ends at midnight Sunday!