“Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” opened lower than any other installment in the low-budget horror franchise – and you can blame VOD.
Despite being the first “Paranormal” film offered in 3D, Paramount’s sixth and final installment opened at $8.2 million, the worst ever in the series. The film averaged just $4,755 per theater – roughly a third of the $13,838 that the first five films averaged. And it’s well under the $6,398 that the last “Paranormal Activity” movie, “The Marked Ones,” managed when it opened in second with $18.3 million in January last year.
But there’s a reason for the drop-off. The film was available in just 1,656 theaters, about half the theaters of previous films in the franchise. That’s because several of the largest theater chains — including Regal, Cinemark, Carmike, Marcus and Harkins — refused to play it after distributor Paramount cut a deal with the AMC and Cineplex chains to shorten the exclusive theater run and make the film available via video on demand after 17 days.
Theaters owners and studios are wrestling with how to battle the rising tide of digital, particularly with younger viewers. Exhibitors have fought fiercely to protect their exclusive “windows” for showing movies in theaters, typically about three months, creating a stalemate with studios who want to evolve with changing consumer habits. Last week theaters boycotted the Netflix film “Beasts of No Nation” for similar reasons, so a stand-off appears to be gaining steam.
“We knew we were very likely to take a hit on the grosses,” Megan Colligan, Parmount’s president of worldwide marketing and distribution, told TheWrap. “But we thought it was worth it to get some hard data and be transparent about it so that our exhibitors, our competitors and customers can take a look at it and render some informed decisions.”
The real key will come in the next couple of weeks, when “The Ghost Dimension” becomes available on VOD. The studio is hoping viewers will watch enough on that platform to offset the box-office shortfall. And despite the stark overall numbers, there were positives to consider. The film’s $4,755 per-location average was better than that of any other wide opener. And AMC and Cineplex were also the top two chains in terms of attendance over the weekend.
Paramount made a logical choice for the film to begin the experiment. Horror films are typically very front-loaded then drop off quickly, so in theory the hit on the box office is minimized. The studio continues with the test next weekend, when it rolls out another horror film, “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.” which will also be available on VOD early.