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Summer Indie Counter-Programming
Posted June 18, 2010 to photo album "Summer Indie Counter-Programming"
In anticipation of the release of Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, Nick Dawson looks back at summer indie hits from years past.
Slide 6: The Blair Witch Project
Release Date: July 16, 1999
Domestic Gross: $140,539,099
Programmed Against: Eyes Wide Shut
On July 16, 1999, the big movie opening was Stanley Kubrick’s swan song, Eyes Wide Shut, an artful drama boasting the star power of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. But a no-budget video project straight out of the Sundance Film Festival called The Blair Witch Project proved frighteningly popular. Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s movie about three students who get lost in the woods in Western Maryland had an intentional rawness that made audiences fear the footage might be real. Clearly audiences wanted to be scared, and most chose the barebones chills of Blair Witch – especially with rumors floating about that the subjects actually died – to the elegant suspense of Kubrick’s meticulous drama. The Blair Witch Project ultimately raked in $140 million (from a budget of just $60,000), while Eyes Wide Shut (which cost $65 million to make) earned just $55 million. As Janet Maslin wrote in her New York Times review, the film has become a holy grail of DIY filmmaker: “Like a cabin built entirely out of soda cans, The Blair Witch Project is a nifty example of how to make something out of nothing. Nothing but imagination, and a game plan so enterprising it should elevate its creators to pinup status at film schools everywhere.”