‘DreamWorks’ original plan risked ending the $900 million Paranormal Activity franchise

‘DreamWorks’ initial approach to the Paranormal Activity franchise almost took a vastly different turn, one that could have potentially stifled its tremendous success. When the studio first secured the rights for Paranormal Activity, the plan did not involve a traditional theatrical release for the horror movie. Instead, DreamWorks envisioned a high-budget remake, with the original director, Oren Peli, at the helm, intending to include the director’s original version as a special feature on the remake’s DVD.

However, the fate of Paranormal Activity pivoted during a critical juncture when Jason Blum and Oren Peli managed to persuade DreamWorks to organize a test screening of the original cut. In an unexpected turn of events, viewers began leaving the theater, initially creating the impression that they found the film uninteresting. To the surprise of the studio executives, when questioned about their premature departure, the audience revealed that they were, in fact, too frightened to endure the movie to its conclusion. These early reactions played a pivotal role in reshaping DreamWorks’ perspective, steering them away from the notion of a remake.

Oren Peli’s vision for Paranormal Activity was centered around authenticity and realism. Purposefully limiting himself during filming and production, he opted for a home video camera, eschewing a full-fledged film crew. Additionally, he imposed a stringent seven-day shooting schedule, contributing to the film’s minuscule $15,000 production budget.

While the prospect of a big-budget Paranormal Activity might seem intriguing, it becomes evident that such an approach would have been counterproductive. Peli’s deliberate use of a home video camera and the focus on real-time filming significantly added to the movie’s authenticity. The limited budget also prompted an ingenious viral marketing strategy, allowing audiences to vote and have the film screened in their city. This democratized the distribution process, generating substantial buzz and excitement around Paranormal Activity’s theatrical release, ultimately propelling it to unprecedented box office success.

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