Paramount Pictures is betting it has the next "Paranormal Activity" on its hands.
After weeks of spirited negotiations, the Viacom Inc.-owned studio acquired domestic distribution rights to "Area 51," the next low-budget scare story from "Paranormal Activity" filmmaker Oren Peli. Paramount announced the deal over the weekend, paying an estimated $7.5 million to close the pact, all without seeing any footage from the production.
Other bidders included Lionsgate Films, Summit Entertainment and DreamWorks, now a part of Walt Disney Co. DreamWorks bought "Paranormal Activity," which then-partner Paramount released Sept. 25. With a production budget of $15,000, scant marketing expenses and domestic box-office ticket sales of more than $107 million, Peli's debut feature has become one of the most profitable films in Hollywood history.
Peli's next movie, which just completed principal photography in Utah, is creatively and financially more ambitious. With a production budget of about $5 million, "Area 51" follows three kids as they sneak into a secret (and dangerous) government facility that could just house alien vehicles and bodies. The film's release date has not been determined, but will probably be late next year.