By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com April 18, 2011 at 1:17AM
With the cost of movies ever rising, profit margins on the biggest budget pictures ain't what they used to be. With most tentpoles coming in around the $150 million mark these days (with some well over $200m), even without a press & advertising cost of at least 50% of the budget, the special-effects blockbusters of the world are lucky if they return double their investment to the studios on the theatrical take. So when the chance comes along for a low-budget flick to crossover, the studios are thankfully still interested.
With a Sundance hit like "Little Miss Sunshine" returning ten times its $10 million acquisition fee to Fox Searchlight, and horror flick "Paranormal Activity" making nearly $200 million on a production budget around the $15,000 mark (although that's clearly inflated by reshoots, post-production and, of course, the hefty marketing money the studio threw behind it), most studios are clearly on the lookout for films that could repeat their success, and Paramount have just set release dates for two recent pick-ups they hope could be contenders.
Drake Doremus' youthful romance "Like Crazy" was one of the breakout hits at Sundance this year, picking up mostly strong reviews, as well as being the surprise win of the dramatic Grand Jury prize at the festival, and was picked up by Paramount for a cool $4 million. Now the studio have set a release date for the film, which details a long-distance romance between a college student (Anton Yelchin) and his British girlfriend (Felicity Jones); it'll begin a limited roll-out through the company's specialist wing, Paramount Vantage, on October 28th, when it'll open against low-budget horror "Dibbuk Box," Andrew Niccol's sci-fi "Now," which stars Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, and the Johnny Depp/Hunter S. Thompson picture "The Rum Diary."
The date seems to suggest that the studio have some awards hopes for the film, although on the basis of our review from Sundance, it may prove a little too slight to figure heavily in the season. Still, we're looking forward to it, and it could well make a pretty penny on the date by crossing over to college kids, or even younger teens.
The studio also recently established a new division named Insurge, which backs a series of 'micro-budget,' mostly genre-related films, intended to replicate the company's success with "Paranormal Activity." The first film out of the gate will be "The Devil Inside," from writer-director William Brent Bell, which features a mostly unknown cast in a documentary-style tale about the daughter of a clinically insane murderer who follows a series of unauthorized exorcisms in Italy.
It all sounds rather familiar, really, in the footsteps of last year's "The Last Exorcism," and the countless other found-footage horror flicks in the works, but that hasn't stopped Paramount from slotting the film in for a release on February 24th, where it'll open head-to-head with the Luc Besson-produced sci-fi actioner "Lockout," which toplines Guy Pearce. Hopefully we'll see something from the project in the next ten months that'll make us look forward to it a little more... [Deadline]