With $249 million global B.O., 'Blair' most profitable

The unexpected success of microbudget horror pic “Paranormal Activity” has inspired many comparisons to “The Blair Witch Project.”

The parallels are obvious: Both are spooky, ultra low-budget mockumentaries shot with inexpensive video cameras.

“Blair” pioneered use of the Internet to build a major audience, at a time when most people could barely watch trailers with their slow modem connections. Paramount’s release of “Paranormal” has also made more effective use of the Internet than many low-budget films have been able to.

The “Paranormal” numbers are already impressive: The film, which cost around $11,000, has already grossed $12.5 million on fewer than 200 screens. But it has a long road ahead to even approach the phenomenon of “Blair Witch” 10 years ago.

That pic, which cost around $25,000 to produce, opened July 16, 1999, to $1.5 million from 28 theaters; it expanded to 1,101 the next week for $29 million and ended up No. 10 for the year domestically with $148 million. Its grosses totaled a staggering $249 million worldwide.

That tally still makes it the most profitable film ever in terms of return on investment.

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