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Nov. 2, 2015, 8:11 a.m. EST

Paramount plan sees scary results

Rushed digital distribution model will be put to the test as ‘Scouts Guide’ flops.

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By Erich Schwartzel

Getty Images
’Our Brand is Crisis’ had the worst wide-release opening of Sandra Bullock’s career

Paramount Pictures’ controversial attempt to shorten the time it takes for new releases to show up on televisions goes into its second act after a dismal showing at the box office.

“Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse,” a horror comedy that the studio is using to test the distribution schedule, grossed only $1.8 million to debut in 12th place—a theatrical flop under any circumstances that turns attention to how the movie will perform when it is digitally released about two weeks after its theatrical footprint drops to 300 locations.

The deal was announced with major exhibitors AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200235402/composite AMC +3.84%  and Canada’s Cineplex Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201832697/delayed CA:CGX +0.12%  signed on to the arrangement, which provides them a cut of the digital sales for each movie. But other major U.S. exhibitors like Regal Entertainment Group  and Cinemark Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200040530/composite CNK +1.29%  have shunned similar distribution experiments in the past and refused to play the movies. “Paranormal” and “Scouts Guide” each opened in about 1,500 locations as a result, about half the normal amount. “Paranormal” has grossed $13.6 million since opening last week.

In other box-office news, it was a scary Halloween weekend for Hollywood, as Bradley Cooper’s “Burnt” and Sandra Bullock’s “Our Brand Is Crisis” also barely made a blip at the box office. Instead, it was a trio of movies with continued staying power—“The Martian,” “Goosebumps” and “Bridge of Spies”—that topped the charts.

Of the new releases, “Burnt,” a Weinstein Co. release starring Cooper as an irascible chef trying to cook up a comeback, fared the best with $5 million in fifth place. Bullock had the worst wide-release opening of her career with “Crisis,” which was released by Time Warner Inc.’s  Warner Bros. The drama about political operatives hired to work an election in Bolivia collected a dismal $3.4 million in eighth place.

An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com.

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