Another Halloween, another “Paranormal Activity” movie. And another chance to see how one movie studio uses social media strategy to empower horror movie fans, so they can be among the first in the world to have the you-know-what scared out of them.
It was 2009 when the first “Paranormal Activity” movie hit theaters after generating considerable buzz at movie festivals. The low-budget scarefest told the story of a San Diego-area couple who documented the ghostly goings-on in their condo via home video. In an age of YouTube “screamer” videos and real-world shocks captured on smartphone cameras, “Paranormal Activity’s” found-footage vibe resonated a lot better than its stylistic predecessor of 10 years earlier, “The Blair Witch Project.” “PA” grossed nearly $200 million worldwide and has replaced the much gorier “Saw” franchise as the must-see Halloween treat for horror fans; last year’s “Paranormal Activity” 2 continued the shocks (and box office success), and now the third edition is set to open in theaters Oct. 21st.
But as with the previous movies, certain cities are getting a chance to see a “Paranormal Activity” film before anybody else – if they cast their votes via Twitter.
Just as it did in 2009, Paramount Pictures is letting filmgoers have a say in who gets the first screams at a “Paranormal Activity” film. Two years ago Paramount opened “PA” in 13 select college towns. The great word-of-mouth from those showings prompted the studio to hire www.eventful.com, which set up a “Demand It!” campaign so people could vote on the movie coming to their city for the next weekend’s round of premieres, and so on. It was the same story last year for “Paranormal Activity 2.”
This year, from Oct. 4th-13th, Paramount is tabulating those votes at www.paranormalactivity.com. “Tweet To See It First!” says the website, which shows a map of the world. Navigate to your city and tweet your vote; as it says on the site, the top 20 cities will get to see the movie first at midnight Oct. 18th. Last year’s early showings of “Paranormal Activity 2” featured free soda, popcorn and prizes for those who came out to the special screenings.
“Paranormal Activity” was one of the first movie franchises to use social media to make the connection with filmgoers, and one of the first to show other studios how it should be done. Sure, “Blair Witch” pioneered the use of websites and internet content to create its groundswell of sensation. Yet “PA’s” crowdsourced marketing techniques didn’t just save Paramount a bundle on selling the first movie in the series; it let horror movie buffs have early ownership in the film. Paramount saw how the core demographic for “Paranormal Activity” was using Twitter to share its rave reviews and to its credit quickly started the @TweetYourScream account, which is back in business this year.
Personally, I love these films. They return the communal experience to your neighborhood multiplex; everybody screams, and then everybody talks among themselves in the theater about their screams. That’s old-school exploitation filmmaking at its best, and the “Paranormal Activity” series adds the benefit of new media and social media to help fill the seats with moviegoers eager to face the next shock.
What do you think about the “Paranormal Activity” movies? Will you go see “Paranormal Activity 3?” And what do you think of Paramount’s use of social media marketing? Please share with us in our Comments section below.