Thanks to the great buzz for and great box office performance of The Blair Witch Project, NAL now plans a 100,000-copy first printing -- more than double its original order -- of The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier, its $12.95 Onyx trade paperback tie-in to the innovative low-budget horror film. Although the movie was only #16 at the box office on its opening weekend, it is estimated that its take per screen in its initial limited release was seven times that of the #1 film, Eyes Wide Shut. Since then, in its wider release, the film has been beating out such big-budget films as Deep Blue Sea.
Book clubs and foreign publishers have also come on board. Since the film's release, Doubleday Direct pre-empted the book for five of its book clubs and deals were made in Germany and the U.K., with more to come.
All this activity is payoff for NAL editor Dan Slater, who approached Artisan Entertainment about doing a tie-in just after the company made news with its quick pickup of the film at last year's Sundance Film Festival.
Slater had an unusual tie-in task: rather than just present the story and images already in the film, he and the official tie-in writer, the mysterious (and perhaps fictional himself) occult author D.A. Stern created more details of the Blair Witch legend, which serves as the reason for the film's student filmmakers to go searching, and then mysteriously disappear, into the Maryland woods.
This detailing of what is actually a fictional legend was part of the Blair Witch filmmakers' and Artisan's strategy -- to create the perception that this pseudo-documentary was true. Cable's Sci-Fi Channel recently aired a "documentary"along these lines and movieg rs are greeted with full displays about the legend in movie theater lobbies.
The film has also attracted a lot of notice for its use of the Internet in building word of mouth -- not only via its own site, but for some eight additional sites about the film supported by Artisan and fans. The sites have been attracting 11 million hits weekly -- good news again for NAL, which can reasonably expect some percentage of this audience to order the tie-in book, which is featured on the official sites The book has already become an Amazon.com prepub bestseller. To add to the Web frenzy, NAL at press time was building a Blair Witch site of its own, to be linked with Penguin Putnam's Web site.
NAL's book was not officially released until today, which means the publisher missed out on some sales attached to both pre-release publicity and to much of the film's initial limited release. (The film was given wide release August 6).
Still, NAL teased those who wanted to learn more about the Blair Witch by handing out some 50,000 copies of a Dossier sampler to the crowds waiting in long lines to get into the movie in its opening weekends.
NAL is now hoping to get Blair Witch filmmakers Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick and/or the film's stars to appear at some bookstore events. But the NAL publicity department is also pitching bookstores ideas for authorless events -- such as a discussion of the film and how it relates to other urban legends.
And the Blair Witch phenomenon could go on for some time. The film inspired a comic book (allowing NAL to sell its book into alternative channels) that could generate a series. "And there's already talk of a sequel,"Slater said. But even if that d sn't happen, there could be more book spinoffs to come. "And in our book, there are several reference of 'other' accounts of the Blair Witch legend,"he said. Stay tuned.