No Such Thing as Bad Web Buzz for ‘Witch 2’

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“The witch lives!” “BW2 is a catastrophe . . . This film is about as deep as a toddler’s paddling pool.” “I HATE those characters . . . it’s like a TV show. Arrgh.” That’s just some of the Internet chatter on the Web site Aintitcoolnews these days for “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2,” the highly anticipated sequel to last summer’s surprise blockbuster horror film, “The Blair Witch Project.” Artisan Entertainment will release the new film on Friday in more than 3,000 theaters nationwide, but for the past year the word has been building about the sequel. “The first year, we had over 10 million unique users” on the movie’s Web site, said LeeAnne Gayner, senior vice president of marketing at Artisan Pictures. She defined “unique users” as every individual who has visited the Web site “but not double-counting people who came back.” Gayner said Internet users from as far away as South Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand and South Africa have clicked on the site. “We’ve certainly seen an increase in traffic in the last couple of months,” she said. The Internet helped fuel the box office for the original film, which was released in July 1999 and went on to gross $140.5 million in North America alone. With its hand-held camera and grainy, amateurish look, the film immediately developed a cult following. Now, the question is whether a bigger budget and more sophisticated techniques can guarantee another hit. Directed and co-written by documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger, “Book of Shadows” returns to Maryland’s ominous Black Hills region, where five campers who are obsessed with the first film explore whether the legend behind the movie is real. They spend a strange night at one of the more sinister sites in Blair Witch lore. Berlinger has said the two themes he wants to explore in the film are being accused of a crime you didn’t commit and the idea that we in the 21st century equate bad documentary videography with being real.

Limp Bizkit’s a Controversial Best Buy

Best Buy’s decision to sell the new Limp Bizkit album at nearly $2 under the wholesale price is being watched this week on several levels. Will the move start a price war as the holidays approach? Does it violate California law? And did heavy response to the low price cause the discount chain to overestimate overall first-week sales of the album? It may take a while to answer the first two questions, but the third will become clear Wednesday when SoundScan releases first-week sales numbers on the Limp Bizkit package. Officials at Best Buy, whose projections normally are quite accurate, estimated last week that “Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water” could sell 1.3 million copies nationally, based on first-day sales at its 400 stores. But other retailers wonder whether that figure isn’t skewed high because of Best Buy’s $9.98 price, compared to $11.99 to $14.99 elsewhere. AWherehouse buyer says the album “should scan over 1 million in the first week,” while a Tower official says, “I wouldn’t be surprised if it sells 800,000 to 1 million.” Best Buy spokeswoman Laurie Bauer wouldn’t comment on the chain’s projection, saying only, “We’re happy with what it’s done overall in helping drive consumers into our stores.” She also wouldn’t say if the reduced rate is the first in a series of low-ball prices to kick-start holiday business. But the move has riled other music retailers because Best Buy can offset losses of almost $2 per CD with profits on the major appliances it also sells. California’s laws against selling merchandise under cost are tough to enforce because courts require proof that a company has cut prices with the intent of injuring a competitor or destroying competition. “That’s not an easy matter to determine,” said Tom Papageorge, head deputy district attorney in the consumer protection division of the Los Angeles County D.A.’s office. “It’s safe to say that the courts have raised the bar for plaintiffs considerably.”

Behind-the-Scenes Look at Diversity and TV

More than a year after the four major networks were attacked by the NAACP and other minority advocacy groups for a cultural “whitewash” on their new shows, the issue of diversity--and the lack of it--is still alive and well in the TV industry. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will tackle the topic Thursday at 7:30 p.m. during a seminar titled “The Television Community: Creating a Place for Everyone.” The event will feature a panel discussion between executives from all the broadcast networks, major cable networks and entertainment unions, and will be moderated by CNN anchor Jim Moret. The academy’s chairman of the board, Meryl Marshall Daniels, said the goal of the program is to provide an insider’s look at how the TV industry is dealing with initiatives and efforts designed to increase multiculturalism. “We are committed to achieving an open and inclusive environment within the industry,” she said. The discussion, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the academy’s Leonard H. Goldenson Theater at 5230 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.


--Compiled by Times staff writers