Comedy looks to 'Paranormal' example

Micro-distrib NeoClassics launches English girls’ school comedy “St. Trinian’s” in limited U.S. release this weekend, hoping to tap into a recent groundswell of niche marketing achieved by college-scene phenom “Paranormal Activity.”

Paramount’s low-budget horror pic, which has sold out midnight screenings on college campuses, grossed $535,000 last weekend at 33 with a per-screen average of $16,000 — the frame’s second-highest average behind Focus’ “A Serious Man” with $41,918 per screen.

NeoClassics plans to launch “St. Trinian’s” at 76 playdates on the East Coast, catering predominantly to private-school auds.

Distrib said it hopes to capitalize on the pic’s topnotch Brit cast, especially Colin Firth, who’s having a banner year with a Venice lead actor win for “A Single Man.” Brit thesps Rupert Everett, Stephen Fry and Gemma Arterton also star.

Having mounted an aggressive viral marketing campaign including media buys and online spots, NeoClassics CEO Irwin Olian said tracking for “Trinian’s” is strong among “mall audiences.”

“We’re trying to do what the big boys do, just with a lot less money,” he added.

Distrib will face tough competition from Sony Pictures Classics’ coming-of-age drama “An Education,” also opening today.

“St. Trinian’s” will go up against “Paranormal” as the latter enters its third frame in an expanded release. With an estimated budget of $11,000, “Paranormal” has already achieved a semicult status and some 600,000 votes in an online poll that allows users to decide whether Par will release the pic nationwide.

Released in the U.K. in December 2007, “St. Trinian’s” grossed $25 million in that territory; worldwide cume is $29 million.

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