TOKYO — The enormous success of “The Blair Witch Project” in the United States has made its run in Japan a team sport.
Seven companies will bring “Blair Witch” to Japan in a way that will increase its theater run from a small but undecided number of screens to 70 theaters and will raise the box office for the film by about ten- to fifteenfold from original estimates to a projected $10 million-$15 million.
The main partners for the film are upstart distributor the Klockworx along with TV network Television Tokyo Channel 12. Among the partners that joined the group after the surprise success of “Blair Witch” in the United States are major distributor Shochiku Co. along with movie house Asmik Ace Entertainment Inc. and publisher Kadokawa Shoten.
After the success in the United States, Summit pushed Klockworx to increase the run in Japan, which led to the large partnership.
Sold at Sundance
The Japanese rights were first purchased for the film in January by Klockworx, when acquisition agent Kana Koido fell in love with the movie after seeing it at the Sundance film festival.
The 3-year-old Klockworx along with TV Tokyo and department store Parco intended at first to show the movie at one arthouse theater in Tokyo and then take it to a handful of theaters nationwide.
However, after “Blair Witch” took the No. 2 slot in the U.S. box office rankings this summer, five distribution companies started calling Klockworx in order to team up with the small company for a wider theatrical release.
Shochiku was able to give the movie a slot at 70 theaters during the lucrative New Year’s holiday. Asmik Ace and Kadokawa have teamed up for some of the more successful movies at the Japanese box office over the past few years.
Other revenue avenues
“Blair Witch” will open Dec 23. Klockworx has video rights for the film and anticipates video sales of 100,000 units.
The partnership has allowed “Blair Witch” to increase its marketing budget and given Klockworx the unexpected luxury of a substantial TV ad campaign.
Among the partners, Kadokawa has published a Japanese version of a book on “Blair Witch” and has been promoting the movie heavily in its various entertainment magazines.
TV Tokyo, which has first purchase rights for a broadcast, is planning a special on the movie and is discounting five-second spot ads for “Blair Witch” in order to increase its exposure.
Klockworx has set up a Japanese Web site at http://www.bwp-jp.com and is hoping that this will be the first movie in Japan that gets a successful boost from an Internet marketing campaign.