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‘Chronicle’ the No. 1 movie after a big viral push

Dane DeHaan plays teen with power move things with his mind “Chronicle.”

Dane DeHaan plays a teen with the power to move things with his mind in “Chronicle.”

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box office

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. theaters (in millions):

1. Chronicle $22

2. The Woman in Black $21

3. The Grey $9.5
4. Big Miracle $8.5

5. Underworld: Awakening $5.6

6. One for the Money $5.3

7. Red Tails $5

8. The Descendants $4.6

9. Man on a Ledge $4.5

10. Extremely Loud & ... $3.9

Updated: March 7, 2012 9:49AM

Josh Trank remembers a time when everyone wasn’t running around with video cameras on their cellphones.

When the 27-year-old director was in high school in the early 2000s, he ran a TV station, at the cusp of the digital revolution when, unlike today, it was unusual for teens to film daily events for the world to see.

Trank’s first feature film, “Chronicle,” taps into that desire to “chronicle” daily life but also uses two popular film genres: the found-footage horror movie and the superhero blockbuster. The low-budget movie made $22 million in its opening weekend, according to studio estimates, to edge out Daniel Radcliffe’s “The Woman in Black” for the No. 1 spot.

In “Chronicle,” a high school loner (Dane DeHaan) obtains an old camera and takes it to a party, where he and two friends discover a strange object that gives them telekinetic powers. They use them at first for normal kids’ stuff — blowing girls’ skirts up, freaking out youngsters at a store with flying bears — but like a muscle, their telekinesis becomes stronger the more they use it, and one of them begins to embrace his darker side.

“When someone is around that age, they don’t really know exactly who they are and they’re trying to figure that out, but they’re trying to figure that out at a time when they also don’t know how to truly express themselves,” DeHaan says.

In addition to mashing up two film genres, “Chronicle” used viral clips and social media as marketing tools to spread the word among the digitally savvy. One trailer on YouTube garnered more than 6 million views in a week, and in early January, a QR bar code flashed onscreen during an NFL playoff game that enabled eagle-eyed smartphone users to view exclusive footage.

“Kids are always on Facebook, they’re YouTubing. Everything is very viral,” star Michael B. Jordan says. “Every time I go to a gym or run across some kids, everybody’s like, ‘Oh my God! “Chronicle!” I love it!’ The younger generation is very excited about this film because they feel like they can relate to all the characters.”

But at the same time, Trank never wanted the movie to be time-stamped to them. He hopes it can translate for older folks as well with its wish-fulfillment aspect.

“Whether the kids in our movie take place in 2012 or if their story took place in 1925, I think they would be doing the same exact thing: They would be having fun with their powers, and then somebody would go too far and there would be horrible consequences,” Trank says.

The filmmaker himself had a big break via people’s computers with a “Star Wars”-inspired viral video in 2007 called “Stabbing at Leia’s 22nd Birthday.” In it, two kids get into a fight at a party that turns into a lightsaber battle before storm troopers come in and bust it up.

An acquaintance of Trank from Beverly Hills High School, screenwriter Max Landis (son of filmmaker John Landis), loved the video and they reconnected on Facebook. A couple of years later, the two were figuring out the story for “Chronicle.”

The video was a hit among sci-fi fans, but it also showed that Trank could create special effects on a budget, which was important with “Chronicle” since he had to make superhero-movie action — including flying teenagers and airborne buses — for less than $15 million.

While much of the money was spent on an epic ending in the skies above Seattle, Trank saved a lot by using more practical special effects.

Trank’s aim was to combine a sense of thrill with deeper emotions to appeal to all facets of a modern moviegoer.

“You just go to anybody’s YouTube channel and you see daily entries of random footage that people are shooting of events, big and small, that take place in their life,” he says. “It’s something we just understand without having to be explained.”

Gannett News Service

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