By ERICH SCHWARTZEL
Moviegoers heading to see “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” this weekend might notice some unusual activity: A trailer that plays after the movie.
Paramount Pictures has added an advertisement for its October release “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” to play soon after the “Paranormal” movie fades to black, an unusual and potentially controversial move that underscores the studio’s push to secure a hit under difficult circumstances. Someone who attended a midnight screening in L.A. on Thursday said the trailer ran before most of the closing credits rolled.
The advertisement, playing in a select number of chains including AMC, encourages “Paranormal” moviegoers to buy tickets for “Scouts Guide” before leaving the theater. It follows regular previews for “Scouts Guide” that play before “Paranormal” begins.
The two movies have already attracted attention in Hollywood since they’re part of a risky experiment by the Viacom Inc.-owned studio to shorten the length of time it takes to get them out on home video. That plan has alienated some theater chains, which refused to play the movies or trailers for them, both limiting their distribution options and depriving the studio of some advertising. The scrutiny has ratcheted up pressure for the movies to perform well theatrically.
The novel placement of the trailer between the “Paranormal” movie and many of its credits could raise eyebrows.
Some television broadcasters have occasionally sped up or otherwise toyed with credit displays on older, syndicated programs, to create more time to run ads. That has drawn the ire of unions and guilds that want their members’ names to run uninterrupted and at normal speeds and sizes. “We’re not aware of anything we’ve done wrong,” said a Paramount spokesman.
“Paranormal” opened on Friday and “Scouts Guide” debuts on Oct. 30.
In July, Paramount announced it was going to release the movies digitally about two weeks after they leave most theaters – undercutting the traditional 90-day exclusive “window” that theaters have long had. Hollywood has tried for years to reduce that window, thinking it would cut down on piracy and avoid having to re-market a movie when it comes out on DVD.
But many theater owners have balked, worrying that it’s a first step toward shortening theatrical exclusivity. While chains AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. and Cineplex Inc. are showing “Paranormal” and “Scouts” and splitting some digital revenue with Paramount, other major circuits like Regal Entertainment Group and Cinemark Holdings Inc. have shunned the titles.
As a result, Paramount is releasing the movies in about 1,600 locations, potentially leaving millions of dollars in grosses on the table. The studio thinks it’s part of a long-term strategy to experiment with the sacrosanct distribution model.
“Paranormal Activity” grossed about $600,000 from screenings on Thursday, better than any preview grosses on the weekend’s other wide releases—but far below the prior “Paranormal Activity,” which made $1.2 million in early screenings and opened to $18.3 million in all major chains in January 2014. This latest installment is expected to open to about $10 million to $12 million.