Although million-dollar marketing campaigns and media blitzes have essentially eclipsed (if not eliminated) the idea of word-of-mouth success, there are still a lot of smaller movies that not only would benefit from fans telling their friends and neighbors to see them, but would actually be movies that fans, friends and neighbors would want to see. Case in point: Paranormal Activity opened on 12 screens September 25th, and in two weekends it's become the sleeper horror film of the season, thanks to a terrifically simple and streamlined story about a couple terrorized by unseen supernatural forces. (Check out Eugene's terrific write-up of the movie here, and my equally effusive praise for it here.)
Paranormal's distributor, Paramount Pictures, has supported the film's release, but they're understandably apprehensive about throwing the marketing muscle of something like G.I. Joe behind something that might appeal only to a select audience, especially since it's a low-budget horror movie that could become either a bona fide phenomenon like The Blair Witch Project, or a dud-on-arrival like Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows. But given the attention that the film has enjoyed at recent festivals and in its limited release (it's currently earning more than $16,000 on each one of its 33 screens), Paramount has offered its fans (and potential fans) a unique opportunity to be part of the film's eventual distribution strategy: specifically, you can determine whether the film earns a wide release, comes to your hometown, and eventually, becomes one of your all-time favorite horror films.