A month and a half after debuting in theaters, Paramount will release “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” and “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” digitally. Now consumers who didn’t catch the films when they premiered in October — and judging from their anemic box office returns, there are many — can see the horror movies from the comforts of their couch.
It’s a move that essentially cuts the typical theatrical release window in half. Three months have historically separated a film’s theatrical debut and its premiere on home entertainment platforms. However, Paramount was able to circumvent these unwritten rules by partnering with distributors, a group that includes AMC and Cineplex, on a plan that allowed them to release the pictures on home entertainment platforms 17 days after the number of theaters showing the films dipped below 300.
“Scouts Guide” will debut on digital platforms for sale and rental beginning December 8 and the “Paranormal Activity” sequel will bow on December 15. Although it gets a digital debut later, the sixth “Paranormal Activity” film actually hit theaters earlier, debuting on October 23. “Scouts Guide” was released on October 30.
Paramount executives positioned the unorthodox release strategies as an important experiment that would allow them to see if consumers would steer clear of theaters if they knew movies might be available in the home sooner. It was difficult to draw many conclusions, however, because major theater chains like Regal and Cinemark balked at the test, refusing to show the movies. They argued that the length of time that a movie is in theaters shouldn’t change for major studio releases, because abbreviating them might undermine their business model.
Paramount and other studios continue to argue that there needs to be greater flexibility in how films are distributed, because marketing costs are rising. Allowing smaller films to debut on-demand and on disc earlier would enable studios to piggyback on the promotional rollout for their theatrical releases, saving millions of dollars.
Domestically, both “Scouts Guide” and “Paranormal Activity” bombed, taking in just over $20 million collectively. Paramount was able to turn a profit on “Paranormal Activity” overseas, where the $10 million production made $59.2 million in receipts.