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Professor Tells USA Today How "Blair Witch" Changed Movie Marketing

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fifteen years ago, on July 16, 1999, The Blair Witch Project was unleashed on the world—and both filmgoers and movie marketing campaigns have never been the same, according to Carrie Lynn Reinhard, assistant professor of communication arts and sciences. 

According to Reinhard, the low-budget film, which incorporated black and white found footage typically used in documentary filmmaking and took advantage of a clever online marketing campaign that gave the events depicted in the movie the illusion of authenticity, was a precursor to other quasi-realistic films such as Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity and even the reality series bombarding television today.

"Blair Witch worked because it flew so far under the radar," Reinhard told USA Today. "No big studio in Hollywood produced it, there were no big names associated with it, and no one was really talking about it or had any knowledge of it, aside from the online marketing campaign, which did not appear to be a marketing campaign."

While the film's release came years before social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it was an early forerunner in the use of "viral marketing."

"The youth of that time were the first digital natives," Reinhard said. "What made the movie a phenomenon was how the combination of viral marketing and the found-footage style produced a movie that seemed meant for us."

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Photo: Artisan Entertainment