‘The Purge’ goes on a Twitter binge

This film image released by Universal Pictures shows Tom Oller in a scene from "The Purge."
(Daniel Mcfadden / AP)

Much has been made this spring of the triumph of movies that don’t contain much star power over the films that do.

This weekend, that will likely happen again as “The Purge,” a low-budget ($3 million) futuristic horror pic starring Ethan Hawke and produced by the company behind “Paranormal Activity,” is expected to outdraw the far better-funded and more heavily marketed “The Internship” at the box office.

Part of the reason for the impending success of the Universal Pictures film, which is set in a world where lawlessness is allowed to reign for one night each year, appears to be social media.

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Though “The Internship” has the help of a high-profile Silicon Valley marketing partner in Google, it’s “The Purge” that appears to be getting the most valuable digital traction, generating trending topics on Twitter over the last several weeks. On Friday morning, a Twitter hashtag, #ifthepurgewashappeninginreallife, was trending on the social-media service, and it was a studio’s dream. Consumers from all over the country were offering their thoughts, comedic and serious, about such a scenario.

A user named “TroubledItalian” wrote that "#ifthepurgewashappeninginreallife my Mom would still be cooking.”

‏@AnastasiaSmusic noted that “#ifthepurgewashappeninginreallife I’d Do Anything And Everything To Protect My Boyfriend. We’re In This Together.”

And a person with the handle ‏@AlexRogaski quipped: “#ifthepurgewashappeninginreallife the next day would be super awkward. Like ‘Sorry about murdering your family Bill. We still on for golf?’”

The results did not seem to be the direct efforts of Universal, which has undertaken some online marketing in recent weeks but did not appear to be sponsoring this particular meme. (The hash tag was not one of Twitter’s “promoted” topics.)

Neither Universal nor the film’s producer, Jason Blum, chose to comment for this item. (Blum deferred to Sunday, after results from the weekend were in.) But the lesson is increasingly clear. A high-concept idea for a movie doesn’t just make it easier for a studio to cut a 30-second spot -- it makes it easier for social-media users to pick it up and run with it as well.


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