PARANORMAL ACTIVITY -- THIS YEAR'S MOVIE SENSATION?

Driven by strong word-of-mouth, sterling early reviews, and people willing to drive hundreds of miles to see it, the $15,000 Paranormal Activity is likely to become the year's most striking box-office success story, the Los Angeles Times indicated today (Thursday), citing one theater owner who said that he hadn't seen audiences so "feverish" about a movie since The Dark Knight. Another theater owner called it "an event unto itself." Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore suggested that the studio has deliberately made no attempt to greatly expand the release platform. Activity is showing in a handful of theaters -- and only once a day, at midnight, for the time being. (It doesn't open wide until Oct. 23.) "In this era of the 10,000-print release, the idea that there's a movie out there that you can't get into -- that created even more interest," Moore told the newspaper. "It's that sense of discovery -- that you know something somebody else doesn't."

TIMES GET TOUGHER FOR INDIE FILMMAKERS

The Walt Disney Co.'s decision to drastically cut back its Miramax specialty division has come as a heavy blow to the already hammered independent film industry, Daily Variety indicated today (Thursday), noting that Miramax's staff will be cut by almost 75 percent and that it will change focus from being a company that acquires "genre" movies to one that produces or co-produces such fare itself. However, the trade publication observed, some industry observers sees Miramax's restructuring as a prelude to the complete elimination of the division -- a repeat of what occurred at Paramount with the recent demise of Paramount Vantage. Variety noted that independent film producers now have less chance of finding distributors. "People are behaving really badly," one sales agent told the publication. "They're basically saying, 'We'll pay you whenever we want too pay you, no matter what the contract says. ... There were 20 places to distribute your film before, and now there are 10.'"

LOS ANGELES EMBARKS ON ITS OWN INCENTIVE PROGRAM FOR STUDIOS

With the state of California slashing costs and unwilling to consider expanding tax incentives to filmmakers that would make them competitive with those of other states, the city of Los Angeles has embarked on its own quest for solutions to runaway production. On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council adopted a series of recommendations aimed at encouraging Hollywood studios to continue to shoot in Hollywood. As reported by today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Times, the proposals included providing free parking for film crews on city parking lots during after-hours shoots or on weekends and allowing building owners who make their properties available to filmmakers to receive a tax credit. But the recommendations appeared modest to many observers, and some questioned whether they would even be implemented. "Let's see if they follow through," a Teamsters representative told the Times. But City Councilman Richard Alarcón commented, "We are in competition with locations throughout the country as well as Canada, and if we do not fight to keep filming in L.A. it could have a devastating effect on our economy."

IMAGINARIUM KICKS OFF WITH U.S. TRAILER, LONDON PREMIERE

Sony won't be releasing the movie until Christmas day, but the U.S. trailer for Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which includes Heath Ledger in his final role, hit the Internet on Wednesday. The trailer also includes scenes featuring Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell, who were brought in to play Ledger's character in different "transformations" in the fantasy film, after Ledger's accidental death last year. The film had its official premiere in London Wednesday (it was first shown at the Cannes Film Festival in May), and initial reaction was positive. In its report, the London Daily Telegraph's Marc Lee observed that it ends with the credit: "A film from Heath Ledger and friends." Commented Lee: "And they have done him proud: it's a fitting memorial."

Cinemark Movie Club