Scared of VOD: Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension flops at the box office
James R | On 27, Oct 2015
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension flopped at the US box office last weekend, following a bold VOD experiment by Paramount.
Paramount’s plan was to release the film theatrically, but shorten the window before its digital release, allowing audiences to download it at home 17 days later. The film arrived hot on the heels of Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation, which was released day-and-date online and in cinemas. Even with the 17-day window, though, exhibitors in the US met both movies with the same response: boycotting them. Why? Fear that the digital release could eat into their own ticket sales.
The Ghost Dimension appears to have justified their fears, opening with the lowest takings from any entry in the low-budget franchise.
Despite being the first in the series offered in 3D, which bumps up the ticket price for cinemagoers, The Ghost Dimension’s first weekend grossed just over $8 million – far below the $18.3 million opening weekend for The Marked Ones in January 2014.
But the poor performance is partly of product of that terror: the movie was released in 1,656 cinemas, 1,000 fewer than the previous entry in the franchise, thanks to Regal, Cinemark and others refusing to screen it. Only AMC and Cineplex signed a deal with Paramount that would also give them a cut of the VOD revenue.
“We knew we were very likely to take a hit on the grosses,” Megan Colligan, Paramount’s President of Worldwide Marketing and Distribution, told The Wrap. “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.”
In fact, in the cinemas where the film was released, The Ghost Dimension didn’t do all that badly. It took $4,755 per screen on average, lower than the other entries in the franchise, but also better than other wide openers released that weekend, notes The Wrap.
AMC did “robust business”, reports Variety, with the chain producing $15 million in revenue overall during the weekend, with $3.1 million of that coming from Paranormal Activity, the most of any film the chain was showing.
There are other factors, meanwhile, that could have contributed to the film’s poor performance, from a crowded slate of releases to the fact that this is the sixth entry in a series that has run out of ideas. The diminishing returns of the franchise saw the fourth film earn $53.9 million overall at US cinemas, down from $107.9 million for the first film. That fell to $32 million for the fifth entry.
Rob Moore, Vice Chairman of Paramount, argued that it “wasn’t about consumer rejection”, because of how well AMC did when screening the sequel. He also notes that some of the cinemas that were showing it did not usually have first-run screenings, which may have depressed results.
VOD, on the other hand, has already proven not to cannibalise theatrical box office takings in the UK. Earlier this year, 45 Years became the first day-and-date release to earn more than £1 million at the UK box office. In two weeks, the movie was almost at £1.5 million overall from theatres – double the previous record set by a day-and-dater. At the same time, the film also broke records on streaming site Curzon Home Cinema, indicating that a movie can be popular on both platforms without harming the other.
The industry is becoming more curious about the potential offered by streaming. Last Christmas, The Interview’s day-and-date release earned Sony over $31 million in its opening weekends through digital sales. Paramount, of course, has dabbled in VOD waters before: when Hot Tub Time Machine 2 floundered, Paramount brought its digital release forward to 46 days after the theatrical window, generating several extra million dollars in the process.
The full extent to which this latest experiment has been successful will only become apparent when The Ghost Dimension hits digital shelves. But with cinemas refusing to take part, the figures are already skewed – the only thing they confirm so far is that cinemas remain afraid of VOD.