Here’s a fun game: Look at headlines about the opening weekend of the 2016 film Blair Witch and see how many times you see the word "flop."
It’s an easy word to justify, at least at first. The Blair Witch Project was released 17 years ago and was made for an estimated $60,000 before bringing in a little under $250 million worldwide. It’s one of the most profitable movies in history when you compare how little it cost to make with how much it brought in at the box office.
The first Blair Witch wasn’t lightning in a bottle. It was a nuclear reactor in a thimble. The Blair Witch Project gave us found footage as a genre and set a new high-water mark for what low budget horror can do under the right conditions.
That’s the sort of performance everyone involved with the 2016 Blair Witch sequel/remake were likely hoping for, but they also had to have known it was unlikely their film would find the same success.
But it didn’t need to. The 2016 Blair Witch film had a $5 million budget, making it a modest risk. Heck, the movie was only revealed to be a Blair Witch sequel after Comic-Con attendees sat down for a screening of something they thought was called The Woods. The film’s posters were swapped out by the time the film had finished playing, surprising everyone in attendance. It was a neat trick that led to some early buzz.
But it didn’t translate into many ticket sales. Blair Witch "only" brought in around $15 million in its opening weekend. The film likewise scored a 36 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 46 percent score on Metacritic.
The film’s writer seems to be taking it well.
Well, our horror film may have been a disappointment at the box office this weekend, but at least we got overwhelmingly negative reviews.— Simon Barrett (@Simon_Barrett) September 18, 2016
But 2016’s Blair Witch only cost $5 million to make and had a modest, if not tiny, promotional budget. That means that Blair Witch tripled its budget in the first weekend, and will likely bring in at least a few million more before it leaves theaters, and horror tends to have a long life via Blu-ray sales and streaming services.
So the film may have disappointed a few people involved with its production who wanted a much larger opening weekend — Don’t Breathe brought in $26.1 million in its opening weekend against a $10 million budget and was a much bigger hit with critics, for contrast — but it’s unlikely anyone lost money on the movie’s production.
To clarify, I'm hugely proud of our film. But if you can't be sardonically maudlin on Twitter, I'm totally unclear what this site is for— Simon Barrett (@Simon_Barrett) September 18, 2016
And this is why you make a modest sequel to a massively successful film 17 years after the release of the original. There’s no risk, and there is the potential to have another huge hit on your hands. 2016’s Blair Witch isn’t amazing, but it’s certainly an enjoyable horror film if you were a fan of the original. And it’s already earning multiples of its budget after the first weekend.
Blair Witch may be a bit of a disappointment, but it’s not a flop.