Paranormal Activity: Indie megahit or smart marketing?

The indie film Paranormal Activity made a solid $22 million in theaters this weekend, which was enough to finish ahead of Lionsgate's Saw VI. Although the "torture porn" Saw series has traditionally brought in a lot of money in October, this year's installment made an all-time low $14.8 million during its opening weekend. What's interesting here is that Paranormal Activity has been playing in theaters for weeks, but only in what Hollywood calls "limited release." That means the film played in a few cities, but it wasn't in theaters all across the nation until just this weekend.

Paranormal Activity distributor Paramount claims it only put the film into wide release after it received a million votes for it on the Eventful Web site, saying its success comes from grassroots support. Some skeptics think Paramount planned to release the film wide all along and only used the vote-to-see-it technique as free marketing.

Either way, Paranormal Activity is a true success. Allegedly made for just $15,000, it's so far earned $65 million and has a legitimate shot at reaching $100 million (it will be shown in even more theaters on Halloween weekend). That's leading a lot of people to compare it to another indie sensation with a well-publicized marketing campaign, The Blair Witch Project, which was filmed for $35,000 and made close to $250 million.

Do you think Paranormal Activity is attracting crowds because it's a great indie film, or have a lot of people just been falling for savvy marketing?

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