Paramount Picks Up 'Area 51'

Some new, quite extensive details have just surfaced for Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli's followup film, Area 51. No, it's not a sequel to the mega-hit Paranormal Activity (although that's also in the works), but rather - and no prizes if you guessed it - a film about aliens. The plot we heard about at the beginning of last month involved three teens whose curiosity leads them to the famous secret-section of the Nellis Air Force Base out in the Nevada Desert, in search of extraterrestrial phenomenon.

The studio which "took the chance" on Paranormal Activity was Paramount Pictures, and now it's landed the U.S. distribution rights to Area 51.

Variety reports the news, and also reveals that Peli had a significantly increased budget to play with this time around, jumping from $15,000 to about $5 million. That's still not much compared to some Hollywood movies (both Transformers 2 and 2012 cost around $200 million EACH).

Paramount has made a commitment in the seven-figure range, sources say, to become co-financiers of the film with Incentive Filmed Entertainment and the Aramid Entertainment Fund. The three companies are apparently going to be on-board for any sequels that may arise (and you know that'll be at least discussed if Area 51 is anywhere near as successful as Paranormal Activity was).

Supposedly there were four other studios bidding to acquire Area 51's rights, but Paramount Film Group president, Adam Goodman, had an "inside track." Goodman was a big part of acquiring Paranormal Activity when he was at Dreamworks and was the exec at Paramount who helped push the studio's word-of-mouth marketing campaign, something which paid off tremendously.

Area 51 has already sold in most movie markets (it was one of the biggest sellers at the American Film Market), except for Japan and some East European markets. Some examples of international companies that bought the rights include Momentum in the UK, Alliance in Canada and Gussi in Latin America. Talk about selling like hot cakes - I guess your last batch really helps your next...

Area 51 completed principal photography about three weeks ago (boy that was fast!). It employs the same kind of found-footage technique Paranormal Activity did, this time in order to tell the story of the three teens who end up at the titular Area 51. I wonder if the storytelling structure will work as well now that so many people saw Peli's haunted house hit. If they play up the fact that Peli directed Paranormal Activity (which they definitely will), then will people connect the dots and the alien film will lose a bit of its impact.

As we previously reported, Paranormal Activity 2 is looking very likely, with Variety reporting it will be, "the next deal to be made." I guess Hollywood hasn't learned from the Blair Witch 2...

Were you one of the lovers or one of the haters of Paranormal Activity (I just saw it last week and it scared me, I must admit)? Are you looking forward to what Oren Peli has come up with his followup, Area 51? Are you surprised the rights to it have been snapped up so quick?

In case you missed it, check out the "Secret Area 51 (Movie) Documents" (in other words, an "edited" script, which Latino Review scored) that we posted about earlier this month.

There's no exact date been set for Area 51 yet, but a release sometime in 2010 is highly likely. The pic will go into post-production soon.

Source: Variety

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