‘Blair Witch’ is looking like a hit – but it can’t compete with the original

09.14.16 8 months ago

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that The Blair Witch Project had grossed over $40 million in its first weekend, which was an incorrect figure. The film actually grossed $1.5 million in its first weekend of limited release, and $29 million in its first weekend of wide release.

ORIGINAL, WITH UPDATE:

The new Blair Witch is looking at a gross in the “mid-teens” this weekend, according to Deadline, which would make the $5 million film a hit — just not in the way the 1999 original was.

As Adam Wingard's horror sequel looks to finish neck-and-neck with the Tom Hanks/Clint Eastwood prestige film Sully this weekend, it's worth noting that in June 1999, The Blair Witch Project delivered on the internet-driven hype to gross $1.5 million in its first weekend of limited release (when it played in just 27 theaters) and $29 million in its first weekend of wide release. That was a massive haul for the $60,000 found-footage pioneer, which finished its run with over $140 million domestic and nearly $250 million worldwide. 

In short: even if the new Blair Witch finishes at the high end of expectations this weekend, it'll still only bring in about 2/3 of what the original film grossed in its debut — which certainly doesn't make it a failure. It simply demonstrates what a rare phenomenon Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick's out-of-nowhere scare classic was.

The new Blair Witch has itself come with a not-insignificant amount of hype, mostly owing to its iconic title but also to some extremely positive early reactions. Originally announced under the working title The Woods, the film was revealed in its true form in a surprise announcement at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, leaving horror fans chomping at the bit for what promised to be a proper sequel to the '99 original after the limp noodle that was 2000's Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows. But reviews have been decidedly mixed thus far (for the record, I liked but didn't love it), suggesting a film less earth-shattering than the early buzz suggested.

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