MEDIA WATCH: Bewitching movie marketing casts spell over Web

The low-budget indie movie The Blair Witch Project, about three students who disappear while making a documentary on local witch lore, has been praised as one of the scariest movies ever - ’the Cinderella film of the decade and maybe all time,’ according to box office analysis firm Reel Source (USA Today, August 3). But it may be more than just brilliant filmmaking that earns this film a place in movie history.

The low-budget indie movie The Blair Witch Project, about three students who disappear while making a documentary on local witch lore, has been praised as one of the scariest movies ever - ’the Cinderella film of the decade and maybe all time,’ according to box office analysis firm Reel Source (USA Today, August 3). But it may be more than just brilliant filmmaking that earns this film a place in movie history.

The low-budget indie movie The Blair Witch Project, about three

students who disappear while making a documentary on local witch lore,

has been praised as one of the scariest movies ever - ’the Cinderella

film of the decade and maybe all time,’ according to box office analysis

firm Reel Source (USA Today, August 3). But it may be more than just

brilliant filmmaking that earns this film a place in movie history.



CARMA found Artisan Entertainment’s unorthodox marketing and public

relations efforts created almost as much news coverage as the movie’s

innovative plot and unusual photography. Spending less than dollars 1

million, the company engaged in ’guerrilla marketing’ by making clever

use of the Internet, co-producing a special on the Blair Witch curse for

the Sci-Fi Channel, distributing the film in limited release to art

houses, and sending teams of interns to campuses and night clubs to

create interest.



The media were nearly unanimous in crediting the movie’s web site,

www.blairwitch.com, with generating unprecedented interest in the film.

Entertainment Weekly (July 30) applauded Artisan’s success in

’reinventing movie marketing’ with this ’brilliant - and virtually free

- marketing tool.’ Because the highly detailed site fills in the story

behind the plot, complete with timelines, photographs of crime scene,

historical documents, interviews and artifacts, the Pittsburgh

Post-Gazette (July 30) declared, ’’Blair Witch Project’ isn’t just a

movie, it’s a meta-media endeavor.’ The Boston Globe (July 30) declared,

’The film is a landmark in movie marketing, the first sensation created

almost exclusively online.’



Several stories addressed the impact that Artisan’s strategy would have

on Hollywood. ’You’re going to see studios changing their marketing

plans for the next five years or so,’ predicted Reel Source (Orlando

Sentinel, August 2).



Possibly Artisan’s ’slickest publicity stunt’ was to make moviegoers

believe ’Blair Witch’ is a true story (Atlanta Journal-Constitution,

July 20). Although the filmmakers and Artisan admit the entire film and

lore are a complete fabrication, they did not deny blurring fact and

fiction.



’The advertising is like a companion piece to the film ... We tried to

make it scarier by creating an element of truth in the story,’ said

Amorette Jones, Artisan’s marketing director (Chicago Sun-Times, August

2).



Of course, not all media reports were entirely favorable. The Wall

Street Journal (August 4) diminished the accomplishments of the film,

writing that the marketing of the movie was finding success because

’many kids in the 16 to 24 target age group ... bump along in a

steady-state of befuddlement fed by infotainment, docudramas, pap

curricula, functional semi-literacy and quasi-religious belief in the

paranormal.’ There were also reports that the hype was too effective,

raising expectations beyond what the film could deliver.



One thing appears certain, however. Artisan’s marketing strategy has

proved the Internet can be an invaluable tool in publicizing a

movie.



Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found

at www.carma.com.



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