WEEKLY WEB WATCH: Web works magic for Blair Witch

Company: Pathe Distribution

Company: Pathe Distribution

Issue: Pre-publicity campaign surrounding UK launch of The Blair Witch


At: www.blairwitch.co.uk

Rivalling The Phantom Menace as the most hyped film of the year, The

Blair Witch Project was the first film to create a great deal of

pre-release notoriety by harnessing the power of the internet. It was

allegedly made for just pounds 35,000 by student filmmakers Daniel

Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez who also had the idea to build a web site to

post unused film footage, and fabricated a ’history’ of the Blair Witch

legend to help extend the mythology around the events in the film.

Even before the film opened in the US, it had inspired more than 20 fan

sites, an e-mail list and masses of reviews on web sites supposedly

coming from pirate copies of the film. Some ’fan’ sites have since been

traced back to friends and colleagues of Myrick and Sanchez. Despite the

questionable ethics, the film makers have to be admired for whipping up

a frenzy about the film through supposed third parties on the internet:

the campaign proved very effective and the film made pounds 18 million

on its US opening weekend alone.

As with so many US films, by the time it reached these shores many

people were already aware of the Blair Witch Project and its claim to be

the scariest film ever made. Pathe Distribution bought the UK rights,

and decided to follow the US lead in its internet-led publicity


The UK web site was masterminded by Ian George, marketing and publicity

director at Pathe Distribution.

’For the UK launch we decided we needed our own site to expand on the

mythology behind the film and be a commercial tool. We felt from day one

that we should not try and encapsulate what the US site had done, but

instead we sought to give the campaign a British spin,’ said George.

The idea was to take the myth that directors Sanchez and Myrick had

created around their script and use the web site to treat it like a real

event and ’blur the lines between fact and fiction’.

Setting up the site for its launch at the beginning of October involved

commissioning and shooting interviews with so-called ’witch experts’,

exploring the background of the film.

The UK site, www.blairwitch.co.uk, is presented as a rough diary with a

bits of paper sticking out as a thumb index allowing the user to

download the trailer and explore the Blair Witch myth.

To date, the UK site has attracted more than three million hits, and the

film has launched to crowded cinemas.

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