Later this week, the Paranormal Activity franchise will be coming to a close with its final installment. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension will be hitting theaters across America on Friday October 23rd 2015. This is somewhat bittersweet, as the series has often varied in quality over the years – but that’s not what I want to focus on here.
The film made an absolutely explosive entrance to the scene back in 2009. While you may or may not approve of the direction the series has taken, I’d like to breakdown the success that spawned one of the most profitable franchises in modern horror history and weigh in on the numbers that the original film has spawned. Since this is the most current “mainstream” franchise for the Halloween release schedule, I’ll draw some comparisons to the previous Halloween-juggernaut franchise: Saw.
Whether you were a horror fan or not, the news of Paranormal Activity hitting nationwide distribution was inescapable. The little handheld film with a budget of only $15,000 was suddenly on top of the world. It used well-built tension and jump scares along with the now controversial Found Footage style perfectly. When all was said and done, the film grossed over $193 million worldwide. Saying the movie was a success would be grossly undervaluing it.
Naturally, once studios saw the public’s reaction to the film, more were ordered. And like clockwork, a film was released each Halloween season (with the exception of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones). While still wildly successful, only one of the subsequent films (Paranormal Activity 3) would surpass the originals total worldwide gross. Over the course of 5 movies, the franchise has raked in over $800 million. You might think that type of success is unheard of in the horror industry, but it isn’t. There was another king of the horror box office for years.
The Saw series saw a very similar success, but had a larger budget from the get-go. The original film released in 2004 and saw a sequel arrive in theaters each October until the Fall of 2011. Saw seemed to “pass the torch” in a way, and made its bow out the following year. People traded in torture porn puzzles for pots and pans flying across the room captured in a Found Footage world. Both of these series were highly regarded in the horror community at the beginning of their respective reigns, but they slowly fizzled out amongst horror buffs around the globe. To the general public though, these releases became a tradition for those looking to get into the Halloween spirit. It just wasn’t October without a Saw or Paranormal Activity release.
With the final Paranormal Activity film releasing this Friday, I will support the franchise one last time in theaters. For better or worse, I’ve come too far at this point. But who will fill the October void when it’s gone? Perhaps the Insidious or Sinister films will realign their release strategies and try to stretch some extra miles out of those already-withering franchises, but that seems unlikely. Who will be the next filmmaker to shock the world and turn $15,000 into $800,000,000? Can such a thing even be done anymore? Would you want it to? October franchise releases have been a tradition now for over 10 years, and it’d be a shame to see them go.
Put on your thinking hats, folks – horror needs a brand new franchise.