Para(mount's Ab)normal Activity: $1MM Yearly for Microbudget Films

The undeniable financial success of Paranormal Activity got the folks over at Paramount thinking.  By undeniable financial success, I mean a little more than $107MM in box office on a $15,000 budget (that's a rate of return of about 666,666% - perfectly appropriate for a film about a haunting).  Paramount appears to be defining microbudget films as those with a budget of less than $100K.  Seems like a no-brainer from the money end, right? 

Let's assume the future microbudget films use the full $100K: the studio could still finance 1,000 movies (!) off the revenues of Paranormal Activity alone.  Expenses including overhead, marketing, etc. etc. and the relative rarity of PA's fiscal success notwithstanding, but the point remains.  The studio said $1MM annually, not "whatever we make will go into producing more microbudget films," but at least we're looking at ten "micro-movies" every year.  Paramount intends on utilizing this initiative to find new voices and hear new stories from established voices.  You'd think even conservatively, one film in every few hundred would be something of a hit and allow the studio to cover potential losses on lots of other micro flops.

More stories and more voices is a good thing.  We recently wrote about Hollywood having little reason to care about the quality of it's films, so I'm willing to take fresh perspectives on movie-making wherever I can get them.  Maybe more movies with big studio names attached will mean more competition and a slight uptick in the average quality of microbudget films overall (I'm well into dreamland here).

Of course, plenty of the microbudget films could be terrible, but some won't be.  Some will be good.  The studio gets more opportunities to make a bundle, many directors, writers and actors get a chance to be involved with more widely-distributed productions (or with those that have a fighting chance) and we as audience members get more choice.

Furthermore, lots of my favorite films to come out in the last few years (The Wrestler, 28 Days Later, Sexy Beast) have been under the Fox Searchlight umbrella and I personally appreciate the creativity and intimacy of many of these smaller, "indie"-type films (although these films may all have had much bigger budgets than $100K).  Removing 40-story robots and world-shaking explosions leaves a hole that might be filled with good writing, acting, cinematography, etc.  It does seem like big-budget, big explosion movies (Stark Trek excluded, IMO) are willing to rely on those things alone.

Of course there's also the fact that Paranormal Activity - the film that seems to have brought Paramount to this decision - was intensely disliked by many.  Who cares, I say.  So were Transformers 2 and Terminator: Salvation! Bigger budget's and shiny lures didn't keep those films from being "rip-offs!"

While I'm sure every studio's website says something to the effect of "We're committed to bringing world-class films to a worldwide audience," they're more committed to making profits (this ain't news, I know).  That's the bottom line.  I'm thrilled that Paramount seems to be taking action based on what must be some profit-centered formula, albeit with a secondary effect of putting out around 10 more movies a year.  Who knows what kind of films will come out of this endeavor -  I say kudos to Paramount and here's hoping they score big and all the other studios start to follow suit.

No word on when these little-movies-that-could will be available for mass consumption, but Paramount's plan is to put 10-20 projects into development by the end of 2010.

Source: Coming Soon

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