Over the course of his two-year quest to get Paranormal Activity into theaters, Jason Blum didn't so much hit bottom as slam against it—repeatedly. "There were 30 low points when it looked as if the movie would get released and didn't," the production executive says. Finally Paramount agreed to distribute the $15,000 DIY horror movie, and it became the most profitable release in history, grossing more than $193 million. That triumph didn't just vindicate Blum's eye for acquisitions, it validated his micro-macro approach. What the New York Times called "the movie marketing story of the year" was actually a case of Paramount's heavyweights playing the brand of indie-film small ball practiced by Blum, who helped director Noah Baumbach get his start and was a protégé of Harvey Weinstein's at Miramax. Late-night screenings in select college towns and smart use of social media gave rise to loud calls for the movie on fan-request sites—a true viral phenomenon, but an orchestrated one. It was a clever way to not spend a lot of money and see if the movie would work," Blum says. "And as it began to work, they spent more." In the wake of his blockbuster success, Blum has cemented his role as Hollywood's bridge between indie-auteur brains and studio-distribution brawn, assembling a gaudy slate of films, both high- and lowbrow, big- and small-budget (including the sequel to Paranormal Activity). "This has allowed me to say 'There's a chance that this might make much more than it cost' and have those words land," he says. "I've become Mr. Do-a-Lot-With-a-Little Guy."

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