by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE
Interviewed live on CNBC Friday afternoon from the annual Allen & Co. media
mogul retreat in Sun Valley, Idaho, Artisan Entertainment chief Amir Malin proudly
plugged his company's upcoming release of "The Blair Witch Project." While
last summer, "Pi" symbols were prominent throughout NYC as Artisan
distributed the buzz film of Sundance '98, this year the trademark Blair
Witch stick figure haunts ads and teasers in preparation for what will be a
national release. "The thing scares me," Malin told yesterday's New York Times,
"It's a marketing person's dream, but I don't want it in my office."
The big push by Artisan and the filmmaking team Haxan Films, kicks off in
earnest today. Tonight (Monday), the SciFi Channel will premiere "Curse of
the Blair Witch," a program created by Haxan to explore the myth behind the
mystery (the special will air again throughout the month), while in NYC the
film will have its premiere and VIP's will join the Haxan Films crew at a
post-screening party in Central Park. Tomorrow night and Wednesday, "Blair"
makers Dan Myrick and Ed Sanchez will be downtown at the Angelika Film Center greeting attendees at the film's first screenings, and then the pair
will head west for the LA opening.
Internet sites devoted to the movie have fueled excitement for "The Blair
Witch Project". The official site, BlairWitch.com, takes visitors inside
the story of the three documentary filmmakers missing in the woods, while
the Haxan.com site provides, among other things, a year-long diary of the
Haxan filmmaker's experience with the project, from the completion of the
movie, through the debut at Sundance, to the film's recent screening at the
Cannes Film Festival where it won the youth prize.
"The Blair Witch Project" first caught indieWIRE's attention almost two
years ago when John Pierson's IFC show, "Split Screen," aired a segment
about three allegedly missing filmmakers. The former producers-rep,
Pierson, caught wind of the project at the 1997 Florida Film Festival and
helped the Haxan crew get it off the ground. Having created a cliffhanger
for the end of his show's first season, Pierson offered indieWIRE a tape of
the "Blair Witch" segment (failing to mention that the three filmmakers
were fictitious). indieWIRE reported that Haxan had discovered a duffel bag
with film and video footage shot by the fictitious missing filmmakers. That
chilling segment set in motion the myth of the Blair Witch and the
following summer the movie was completed and screened as a work in
progress for audiences in Orlando, FL where Haxan is based.
"Blair Witch" debuted as a midnight film at the 1999 Sundance Film
Festival. FILMMAKER Magazine showcased the movie in its annual Sundance
issue, and in an interview that was published in indieWIRE's daily print
edition on the day of the Sundance premiere, Danny Lorber proclaimed that
the film "may just be the most original and potent horror movie seen on
screens in nearly twenty years." (The interview will be re-published in
indieWIRE later this week.) Artisan Entertainment acquired distribution
rights to the picture within hours of its world premiere. Reached shortly
after the deal, Artisan's Bill Block told indieWIRE that the pact was
sealed for a low seven figures.
Last month, on the eve of the national debut, Haxan's hometown Florida Film
Festival screened "The Blair Witch Project" as its opening night movie and
a few days later the fest offered a special midnight screening that sold
out immediately. The excited crowd embraced the movie and the hometown
filmmakers, two days later the Haxan crew was on a whirlwind media tour to
stump for their project. Concluding yesterday's New York Times interview,
Haxan's Dan Myrick summed it up best, stating simply, "The legend of the
Blair Witch has taken on a life of its own."
+ (May 20, 1999) "Blair Witch" @ Cannes '99: A Diary
+ (Aug 15, 1997) "Split Screen's" First Season Ends With A Cliffhanger