With more than $140 million scared up last summer at the domestic box office, the following item should hardly come as a surprise: The Blair Witch is coming back. Soon.
Artisan Entertainment, which distributed the original "Blair Witch Project", confirmed the long-rumored follow-ups Monday, announcing plans for a sequel and prequel to the indie horror hit about three clueless film students who disappear in the woods while shooting a documentary about the legendary (but fictitious) Blair Witch.
The sequel -- which may again feature Maryland locations -- should go before the cameras as soon as next month. A fall release is planned. Helming the flick will be acclaimed documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger ("Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills"). No word on who's writing the screenplay.
What of Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, who wrote and directed the original no-budget wonder? They're going to executive produce "Blair Witch 2." In the meantime, they'll continue work on "Heart of Love," a romantic comedy for Artisan which they're also executive producing.
The pair then looks to get back in the "Blair Witch" game, reteaming to write, direct and produce the third "Blair Witch" feature -- a summer 2001 prequel that likely will delve into the history of the Blair Witch. (Think "Phantom Menace," minus Jar-Jar.)
"Artisan views 'The Blair Witch Project' as one of the company's most viable franchises," said Artisan Co-President Amir Malin in a statement. "These additional installments will help to satisfy the high demand for this multifaceted property."
For Artisan's purposes, "multifaceted" means "major profitable" -- Myrick and Sanchez's magic gimmick of a movie cost less than $100,000 to produce. The sequel and prequel will cost $7 million to $10 million each -- still quite low by Hollywood's (inflated) standards.
The cast for the two new movies remains a mystery. Although in USA Today, Malin hinted that Heather, Josh and Mike (aka the three clueless campers) are not quite as dead as viewers of the first movie might think.
Says Malin: "Whether you will see any of the [original] characters back exists as a possibility."
Never underestimate the power of a hit franchise.