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Paramount to launch micro-budget movie division

Fresh off its stunning "Paranormal Activity" success -- a $15,000 thriller that has grossed more than $107 million in its domestic release with little paid advertising -- Paramount Pictures is set to launch a new production business for movies budgeted at less than $100,000.

The as-yet-unnamed division plans to finance as many as 20 "micro-budget" movies annually starting in 2010, according to people familiar with the studio's plans who spoke on condition of anonymity because the formal announcement has not been made. A current Paramount executive will run the business, but the selection has not yet been revealed  publicly. Funds for the movies -- no more than $2 million total annually -- will be part of Paramount's existing production budget. The division does not plan to acquire completed movies at film festivals and markets.

Not all of the micro-budgeted movies Paramount intends to make will be released theatrically.

Instead, the division will operate much like a studio's development slate, where screenplays are purchased, rewritten and (in some cases) turned into movies. Paramount plans to target both established filmmakers and newcomers with its micro-budget pitch. Paramount production chief Adam Goodman has been touting the initiative in recent meetings with the town's leading talent agencies, according to two people who were at Paramount's presentations.

People familiar with the studio's plans say some of the movies may end up serving as "calling cards" -- a showcase of a novice director's storytelling talent for a future project. A handful of films may contain enough good ideas to merit a bigger-budget remake. And another group may rise to the top of the heap, getting a theatrical release.

Because thousands of theaters are now equipped to show digital movies, the micro-budget productions can be distributed without the added expense of striking film prints, which can cost more than $1,000 apiece. Paramount also believes they can be marketed without costly television commercials, print advertisements and billboards, instead relying on the grass-roots word-of-mouth that helped propel "Paranormal Activity" to its huge profits. Some of the micro-budgeted movies could be released in just a handful of midnight screenings to gauge audience interest before a wider (and costlier) national release.

Paramount is not the first big studio to try to play in a smaller sandbox. Twentieth Century Fox launched (and recently closed) Fox Atomic, a division dedicated to genre films that struggled with such releases as "Turistas" and "Jennifer's Body." Universal Studios also just exited the business, selling its Rogue Pictures ("Doomsday," "The Return") to Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media.

"Paranormal Activity" has spawned other movies inside Paramount. The studio is developing a sequel to the movie from director Oren Peli and producer Jason Blum, and the studio recently bought Peli and Blum's next movie, "Area 51," a drama about three kids who sneak into a secret, government-run alien storage facility, for about $7.5 million.

-- John Horn

Comments () | Archives (16)

Just crank out a bunch of B action flicks with so we'll have a reason to go to the movies each weekend. Do a hundred minutes of gun fights, fist fights, some hot chicks, car chases, with mininum plot and dialogue. The few who want to go see Precious can do so and the rest of us will go for the action movies and, in the process, send some cash to the studios.


This is a great thing for the film world. Too bad they are too late. The next great micr-budget film has already been made: www.selfhelplessmovie.com. Feature length comedy, made for under $10K, hilarious. My doubts that paramount will succeed with this venture come from the belief that good, watchable no budget films are only (and rarely) made by desperate, and exceedingly talented individuals.

They don't plan to pick up any films from festivals and outside producers?
But that's exactly how they just made a hundred million bucks.

Not a bad idea to address a certain problem. http://www.blueribbonpress.net/OurHouse.htm

Don't worry Jake if you got the next Paranormal Activity they'll buy it from you. Those rules are made to be broken. This is a great idea and hopefully someone with an ear to the street will run it and not ef it up (are you listening person at Paramount sitting in your nice office overlooking someone selling crack and the hookers hiding from the rain on Gower?)

Kind of odd that they won't work with festivals or completed projects. Isn't that exactly WHY Paranormal Activity got to them? A major studio microbudget film is an oxymoron.

That said anyone have contacts over there? (ahem)

Unfortunately the only way that features can be made for these micro-budgets is by not paying people properly, if at all. I'm willing to bet that the most of the below the line crew on "Paranormal Activity" were working for lunch and promises. It would be nice to hope that the director will bring all the people from the crew on to the $7.5mil sequel - but I bet he won't be allowed to even if he wanted to. The studio will want to protect it's investment with established experienced labor.

Unfortunately the creative (or rather business) process that a project has to negotiate before production in a major studio pretty much eliminates the chances of Paramount making a hit at this budget level. But it is likely to lead to successful remakes of their unreleased output with box office names attached. This in-house testing and development for new talent is a good step forward for the studio. How do I get in?

More studio nonsense! Paramount will be so overwhelmed
that those of us who have a real budgeted, boarded and
scheduled work will never get past the big stone wall
I call "The Unsolicited Go Away Don't Bother Us" arrogance.

"If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate."

Isn't that just about the age group that thinks they can participate in this supposed gold-rush? I encounter them all the time, with their HVX's, and no lighting, sound, story, nor any idea about the art and craft of film-making.

They don't have a clue what they are doing. As if micro budgets were suddenly the key to success. This sounds like the theme of a reality show.

It's another fishing line out in the ocean.

Whatever's gonna bite and work will do so.

Today's movie is what they've always been -- visual driven stories.

Whether it's a silent film or one with sound and dialogue.
It's a story.

Bottom line...if it works and is made for under 100 grand...it works.

And being desperate enough to create your story on your terms and put it out there for the global audience
in different formats is what is's truly about in the digital age.
No agents.
No managers.
No big theatrical releasing or having big name stars.
let alone big budgets or high gloss production values.
And the overblow budgets that come with all that.

Besides...Hollywood's been lying about their budgets and
production accounting methods from day one.

Tell the story you want to tell on your terms...and if it's
the real deal -- regardless of how it looks -- it will find
the audience...and make a profit.
If it works...it just works.

We're doing that now with 2 of our projects created to be visually driven; in multi media formats...and a mix of different b - movie genres.
Created for the global audience...and not 100 percent english-dialogue driven.

Write on, right on.
[email protected]

It could work, "Paranormal Activity" and "Blair Witch" had massive and clever campaigns that helped them sell very well and they ended up being gold mines but smaller no budget movies like "Ink" and the European "No Right Turn" which are very well made but essentially no budget movies, struggle without any marketing.......so if they can provide help with marketing...that is the difference. Hope it opens doors for some fresh movies, at least Hollywood is *trying* to be creative!

I concur with the truth of the comments posted by: Robyn L. Coburn | 12/11/09/02:59PM Experience informs me that performing an audit on any micro budget film very quickly reveals that the low cost of production was achieved by not paying people whose labor made the film possible.

This calls into question whether a studio will be able to produce films with budgets of less than $100,000 without running afoul of labor laws. Fostering creative filmmaking is one thing -- creative bookkeeping is quite another.

The question then seems to be: ‘how can Paramount hope to legally turn out any product from this new division without spending at least a few million per film?’

Creating film budgets for a lower budget movie requires the same skill and even more to create one for big budget films. Filmbudget.com

This is how to get a micro-budget film within financial constraints:

use only non-paid interns fresh out of film school

pay actors $13 hour

try to get favors out of film school buddies for free and have them edit or write the score with a promise they can have their name on the film

Guess what, I am not paying $10 + to watch a shoddy movie. Also, this is going to cause a movement for non-paid interns in that it will catalyze a union.

Hollywood will no longer be a safe-bet for investors.

Remember the housing bubble, well Hollywood is about to bust.


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