The hot story today is the box office failure of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett's BLAIR WITCH sequel in its opening weekend. The film only made $9.6 million domestic and failed to break the #1 slot. Although I think this whole mess has been blown vastly out of proportion (the film has already made its budget back, and it did beat out BRIDGET JONES' BABY and SNOWDEN, both of which also premiered this weekend), an unexpected person has chimed into the conversation.
BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2 director Joe Berlinger has taken the opportunity to defend his vision and the film's success in this series of tweets:
Berlinger later told Deadline:
I have nothing but respect for Adam Wingard and I hope the film is great; I haven’t seen it yet.
Ironically, I was in Toronto and just couldn’t bring myself to go see it and relive the trauma. What trauma? The studio recut the film and inserted scenes of gore against my will and I didn’t have the courage back then to just remove my name from the film. And then to be eviscerated by critics on a cut of the film that I did not sanction was doubly painful. That’s not to say that my director’s cut would have garnered a better reaction from critics per se, by at least I could have stood by the film for representing my vision and if people hated that version, it would have been less painful because it’s what I would have wanted to be seen.
But why I tweeted today is this: there is also this myth that the film was a financial disaster… In fact, it was still Artisan’s second highest grossing film in their history, the highest being the original BW. It grossed $48 million worldwide on a $10 million budget and did over $25 million on DVD… Pure gravy on DVD... People talk of this film as a total failure and franchise killer. The first film, which I have tremendous respect for, was a phenomenon because of how it was marketed, as a real documentary, at a naive and early stage of the Internet. That was one of the themes buried in my film that got butchered.
No film… not mine or Adam Wingard’s was going to do that kind of business. Creatively, my intention was to do something very meta that made fun of the very idea of doing a sequel, but the studio butchered the film at the 12th hour. But my film still grossed $13 million opening weekend with a lot of hate being thrown my way prior to release; movie tickets were a lot cheaper in 2000 then now; I was released on less screens and with inflation and movie ticket prices taken into account, my grosses in today’s dollars were about $20M, per a Forbes magazine column yesterday. I was handed a lot of hate and told I killed the franchise.
That's quite a mouthful! Although the quality of BOOK OF SHADOWS, director's cut or not, is a hotly debated topic in the cult film community, it's interesting to get this kind of perspective so many years later. Rushed studio sequels are a tough bronco to hold onto, and clearly Berlinger feels like the amount of hate he individually got is vastly disproportionate, which is certainly fair.
I'm sorry Wingard's film got dragged into it, because there are certainly more factors involved in that box office differential (like... the fact that there hasn't been a Blair Witch flick in over a decade so the name isn't quite so hot). It's no masterpiece, but I dug it and I hope it finds the audience it deserves.