Small Town Horror Fans Scream: We ‘Want It’

'Paranormal Activity' stages Facebook contest for advanced screenings

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Two months before Paranormal Activity 4 hits the theaters, Paramount Pictures is already teasing the horror flick’s 13 millions fans on Facebook, asking them if they “Want It." In an effort that launched yesterday, it appears folks in so-called fly-over locales want to see the movie pretty badly.

Consumers who visit the movie’s page on the social site can vote for their hometown to be one of the 25 cities where Paramount holds advanced screenings for free. To do so, they have to tap a Want It button that was specially created (using Facebook’s API) for the campaign. Interestingly, the landing page on the social site prepopulates the user’s city in the copy above the button. Extracting locations from user profiles is a place where not many brands have been willing to go on Facebook.

Fans can also vote at the film's website. The 25 cities that get the most votes will have a chance to view the film gratis before it opens nationwide on Oct. 19.

Paramount marketers have also included a leaderboard on the Facebook page, and some off-the-beaten-path municipalities are seizing the rare opportunity to have a big movie come to their towns first. So far, some of the top vote getters include Lawrence, Kan.; Fresno and San Bernardino, Calif.; Spring, Texas; Lake Bluff, Ill.; and Purchase, N.Y.

It's certainly not the first time that Paramount has combined the art of the tease with digital channels. Last fall, the film company ran a campaign called "Tweet to See It First," where cities took to Twitter to get Paranormal Activity 3 to their towns for an advanced screening.

And during the same buildup, Paramount ran a clever mobile campaign that helped push the movie to the No. 1 position at the box office. Working with the media agency MEC and Yahoo, the studio brought to life a fake news story about a nationwide cellular outage. Yahoo Mobile users were teased with an alert before the “urgent report” took over the screen. After a moment, static briefly engulfed these users' mobile Web browsers—after which an ad for the flick came into focus.

That effort recently garnered Adweek's 2012 Media Plan of the Year Award for the mobile category.

Meanwhile, check out the details on Paranormal Activity 4's trailer from our sister publication, The Hollywood Reporter. But be forewarned, the franchise has a history of misdirection with its trailers.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.