Hollywood Wonders About ‘Paranormal’ Director’s Next Movie

Hollywood is puzzling, The New York Times says, over just what the next film from Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli is really worth.

CAA and IM Global are said to be scrambling to sell U.S. rights to Peli’s next movie, Area 51, before the week is out. At least six companies, including several major studios, have expressed interest.

But, excitement over a potentially hot property is being tempered by caution at seeing traditional industry economics quickly inflate the price, and perhaps lower the profit potential, of what on the surface appears to be another guerrilla-style property from Peli, the NYT says.

Paranormal‘s story is now legendary: ultra low-budget thriller gets university screenings as Paramount conducts Web campaign encouraging audience demand, release continues to expand, film picks up $22 million in fifth weekend to beat a stalwart franchise for the top spot and is now poised to do similar — or better — repeat business as Halloween weekend approaches.

To date, the film has earned $62.5 million.

Paramount, however, is out of the bidding for Peli’s follow-up. “We are not in active discussions to buy Area 51,” a Paramount spokeswoman told the NYT.

DreamWorks — whose executives brought Paranormal Activity to Paramount during their tenure there — Overture and Lionsgate have not been active bidders for Area 51 either, the paper says citing people involved with the sale.

Area 51 producer Jason Blum had no comment for the Times. Stuart Ford, chief executive of IM Global, also declined to discuss Area 51. Missy Davy, a spokeswoman for CAA confirmed that her company was representing the film but did not elaborate.

Area 51 cost a little less than $5 million and Ford has been looking for bids of $10 million or more for domestic rights. DreamWorks and Paramount paid only about $300,000 for Paranormal Activity.

One issue with the new film is that studios will not be able to push it as a sleeper hit since Peli is now so high on everyone’s radar.

“In a world of grass-roots wildfires, Hollywood realized that this would not have the same force without the underlying buzz — the confusion between reality and drama — that the rough original film clearly delivered,” entertainment lawyer Peter Dekom, who is also co-author of Not on My Watch: Hollywood vs. the Future, told the NYT.

A deal would be expected, and desired, prior to next week’s American Film Market when international distributors will be circling. Some distribs who picked up Paranormal have been moving release dates up in order to capitalize on the ruckus the film is making in the States and it will be interesting to see how foreign sales go for Area 51 given that Paranormal‘s international rollout doesn’t begin in earnest until mid-November.

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