I saw “Paranormal Activity” for the first time a few weeks ago in an audience of 750 people, in Chicago’s Music Box Theatre. It was a free screening that had little marketing, for a movie that I, a film aficionado, never heard of. The line was over four blocks long, and over 300 people were turned away from a theater that isn’t small.

Learning the story of how a studio resisted releasing a movie they bought, because they could stand to lose money on the releasing of it, and therefore wanted to remake it for more money, it was disheartening after seeing the film. “Paranormal Activity” affected me so much I had trouble sleeping for several nights. However, when Paramount purchased distribution, they did so for so little, and the film cost so little to make that a studio would have to spend more to release the movie than to never let it see the light of day.

The “DEMAND IT!” feature on the films website enabling fans to spread the word and to Demand the movie in their market spread like wildfire after these free Midnight screenings and opening it on 12 College markets.

However, the rate of expedited demand-its has me curious, is this a marketing tool? Is this just some false marketing tool that can not be attributed to actual people demanding the film in the exact numbers that the site claims. It hit 1,000,000 Demands last night. there are two ways to view that….

1.) Viral word of mouth is different as a tool than it was 10 years ago when Blair Witch was released. I will admit this is a far more inventive and enjoyable film than Blair Witch. And word of mouth has spread to over a million people in that quick of a time-span. Email, social networking, and instant messaging has taken a strangle hold of how we communicate compared to a decade ago when we were falling in love with cell phones.

2.) The Demands are just a pre-fabricated number that is based on where they are planning to release the movie anyway, and it goes up to encourage people to demand it to join a club. The move in marketing to buy something or see something because it is #1 instead of because it is the best available product has been happening over the last 15 years or so… “The Tacoma, the best selling vehicle in its class.” You don’t buy something anymore, you join the club.

Is the Demand It feature the real thing? If so, the people have officially started to decide that many studios have made piss poor decisions over this past decade. However, if not, many people my age got duped by an astonishingly ran viral marketing campaign.

If it is the real thing this is what it means for the future of ALL Specialty(Independent) Films:

Demand It features will be thread through FOX SEARCHLIGHT to bring the New Coen Bros. Film out to Kansas City because, forbid we actually test it there.

However, it does give people in smaller markets the power to see films before people in larger markets, which is something I have been a fan of for a long time. I live in Chicago, a large market. We get films when a lot of other Cities do, and I don’t understand why LA- only because of its proximity to the industry gets every good film before us.  If a film that would eventually open wide always started in small markets first, the possibility of word of mouth spreading quicker is higher because even smaller markets than Chicago, have less theaters. So people come from farther to see the film.

I went back to see “Paranormal” in a paying midnight the next week. It sold out 6 screens and made the Studio over $23,000 from Chicago for the Midnight show.

That is all I have to say on it, thoughts?