The gang-busting opening of The Blair Witch Project in Italy has pushed the release of the spook-fest to $100m on the international circuit. This brings the micro-budgeted production to a huge worldwide total of $240m and confirms its position as the most profitable film ever.
The film's opening three-day weekend in Italy broke all previous records for an American film scooping $4.5m from 440 screens, despite opening over a year after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 1999. However it was not enough to dislodge the crown from Italian film Fireworks directed and scripted by Leonardo Pieraccioni in 1997, which is the all-time highest weekend for the territory.
On its second weekend Blair Witch won the box office battle against 20th Century Fox's new release The Beach which nonetheless fared well with $1.5m from 400 screens. Distributed by FilmAuro, Blair Witch has taken over $8m after 10 days. Together with Toy Story 2 and American Beauty, the success of these two films has helped Italy's cinema admissions during February jump by 50% compared to the same month last year.
This is good news for the territory which, according to figures from industry organisation Cinetel, reported a one million drop in tickets sold, from 52 million to 51 million, during the six months from August 1, 1999 to January 1, 2000 compared to the same period the year before. In the same time frame, the market share for Italian films has also fallen to 14.4% from 28.5%.