Sunday, November 8, 2009

Horror movie "Paranormal Activity" scares

The new horror movie "Paranormal Activity" could be filling movie studio marketing departments with fear.

Using a campaign of limited showings, social media and word-of-mouth fan buzz, the film has managed to become a breakout hit without the aid of a glitzy marketing campaign -- or even a traditional movie trailer.

According to Variety, the very low-budget film (it reportedly cost $11,000), which played in fewer than 200 theaters, raked in $7.1 million over the weekend -- a record for a limited-release film. The film had an impressive $44,163 per-screen average and placement in the top five of the box office ratings over the weekend.

"We think it's exciting that they are taking this grassroots approach to independent film because sometimes independent films do get lost in the shuffle," said Kevin Carr, a writer/reviewer for the site Film School Rejects. "It's a unique test to see if people can demand things outside of standard marketing campaigns."

"Paranormal Activity" bills itself as "the first-ever major film release demanded by you."

The movie, which was an audience favorite at the alternative Slamdance festival in early 2008, was acquired by Dreamworks (then a part of Paramount Pictures) two years ago.

The studio initially planned to remake it using better-known actors. But after studio executives, including Steven Spielberg, viewed it, they decided the Paranormal Activity Movie could stand more or less as it was (though director Oren Peli did shorten the film and shoot a new ending).

The movie gained buzz after Paramount began late-night screenings in college towns, and fans took to Twitter and other sites to hail the scary flick, which centers on a young couple who believe their house may be haunted.

Paramount increased the interest by urging fans to sign on to and demand theaters in their locations show the film.

Peli posted a video on YouTube expressing gratitude to the fans and urging them to continue rooting for the Paranormal Activity movie.

"I just wanted to take this opportunity to speak directly to the fans and thank you all for the amazing support," Peli said on the video. "It's just been overwhelming especially considering the long road this film had for three years and the studio wanting to do a remake."

More than a million people have heeded the call. The result has been a groundswell of interest rivaling that of big-budget films.

Megan Colligan, co-president of marketing for Paramount, said the studio had a limited budget for advertising the film, so its marketing had to be tightly targeted.

Colossal 'sea monster' unearthed

The fossilised skull of a colossal "sea monster" has been unearthed along the UK's Jurassic Coast.

The ferocious predator, which is called a pliosaur, terrorised the oceans 150 million years ago. The skull is 2.4m long, and experts say it could belong to one of the largest pliosaurs ever found: measuring up to 16m in length.

The fossil, which was found by a local collector, has been purchased by Dorset County Council. It was bought with money from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and it will now be scientifically analysed, prepared and then put on public display at Dorset County Museum.

Palaeontologist Richard Forrest told the BBC: "I had heard rumours that something big was turning up. But seeing this thing in the flesh, so to speak, is just jaw dropping. It is simply enormous."

Pliosaurs were a form of plesiosaur, a group of giant aquatic reptiles that dominated the seas around the same time that dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

They had short necks and huge, crocodilian-like heads that contained immensely powerful jaws and a set of huge, razor-sharp teeth. Using four paddle-like limbs to propel their bulky bodies through the water, they made easy work of passing prey such as dolphin-like ichthyosaurs and even other plesiosaurs.

David Martill, a palaeontologist from the University of Portsmouth, said: "These creatures were monsters.

"They had massive big muscles on their necks, and you would have imagined that they would bite into the animal and get a good grip, and then with these massive neck muscles they probably would have thrashed the animals around and torn chunks off.

"It would have been a bit of a blood bath."

Big contender

Experts think this latest discovery could represent one of the largest pliosaurs ever found.

Dr Martill said: "This thing is absolutely enormous. When I saw it, it really just hit me how big it was."

The fossil comprises a lower jaw and upper skull.


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