When word came in that Blair Witch had drawn some respectable crowds to the early Thursday evening showings, it seemed as though the genre was on the cusp of seeing another fiscally dominant genre piece.
Then the weekend rolled around and those thoughts went flying on the breeze like the ashes of a burning cigarette.
Blair Witch flopped in its opening weekend. And it flopped, bad. Really, really bad.
Although the film slid into the number two position at the box office, it did so with an embarrassing $9 million. The only reason it took that number two position is because it was a disastrous weekend at the box office as a whole.
The number one film, Sully, which held onto the top slot for a second week in a row, sold $21 million in tickets. When $21 million is enough to secure the top spot at the box office, you know it just so happened to be a ghost town around US theaters.
None of that changes the fact that Blair Witch – as highly touted and well promoted as it was – failed, walking away with a weekend total of $9 million, edging Bridget Jones’s Baby by just a million.
For the record, not only did I not know it existed, I haven’t even seen a preview for Bridget Jones’s Baby.
Are we hammering home the bewilderment of this failure, yet?
Let’s take it one step further and look at how the previous two Blair Witch flicks performed.
In 1999 The Blair Witch Project opened wide in just 1,101 theaters, that’s roughly 2,000 fewer screens than the release of Blair Witch was treated to, and it opened to the tune of $29 million, also laying claim to the number two position at the box office.
Let’s also look at the black sheep of the franchise, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. There’s no way in hell this odd-ball entry might outperform Adam Wingard’s film, right?
Book of Shadows also opened in the number two box office position back in 2000. It arrived on 3,300 screens, just a few hundred more than Wingard’s Blair Witch, but it raked in $13 million upon opening. A clean $4 million more than the third film in the franchise managed.
We don’t know what final theatrical tallies will look like for Blair Witch, but we know it’s not going to come close to the $140 million the inaugural film hauled in at the domestic box office. As insane it seems, knowing how talented both Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett are, the truth is the third film might not even surpass the depressing $26 million that Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 managed before exiting theaters.
That all seems so, so wrong. But it also seems like a very relevant statement. The audience may finally be speaking, and not only are they telling filmmakers they’re tired of found footage films, they’re also tired of sequels, prequels, remakes, reboots and whatever the hell else you want to call them.
From everything I’ve heard, Blair Witch is an awesome movie. When an awesome movie can’t find any traction with the audience, there’s a reason. Maybe filmmakers aren’t willing to look at the grand scheme of this picture. The grand scheme says let the found footage films die. Let the sequels and remakes die. And most importantly, maybe viewers are finally determined to let filmmakers know we’re not all morons, and we’re three steps beyond ready for something fresh.
Regardless of the quality offered by Blair Witch, the absolute last thing you can call it is fresh.