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"Blair Witch Project' is subject of sequel talk

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

Chances are The Blair Witch Project won't end with just one movie.

The film, which has generated more than $41-million at the box office in three weeks, is already the subject of sequel talk.

Filmmakers behind the summer's sleeper hit are meeting next week with Artisan Entertainment, the film's distributor, to discuss sequel possibilities, said Mike Monello, a co-producer of the horror mockumentary with fellow University of Central Florida alumni Daniel Myrick, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sanchez and Robin Cowie.

"We've got some ideas that no one's really heard yet," Monello said. "If they like our ideas, we may or may not decide to do it. Artisan holds the rights to the characters and the story, so they could do it without us if they want."

Artisan also has first rights to the next Blair Witch film as part of its distribution deal with Orlando's Haxan Films, the company owned by the five UCF grads. Artisan bought distribution rights to The Blair Witch Project for a reported $1.5-million. The Orlando filmmakers will get a percentage of the film's gross.

There have been reports that a sequel already is planned for next summer, but that comes as news to Monello.

"To be honest, we don't know anything about it," Monello said Wednesday. "That must have come from rumors on the Internet, because I've seen so many rumors. It's really funny."

Haxan also has a deal with Fox Television and New Regency Productions to develop two TV shows based on the movie, although no specific project has emerged, Monello said.

A few things are certain, though:

A book based on the movie, The Blair Witch Project: A Dossier by David Stern, will hit stores Monday. The book, being published by Penguin-Putnam, contains the fictional account of an investigation by a private eye hired by the families of the missing students.

"The book was written by a real private detective who works in Miami," Artisan's Paul Campbell told the Kansas City Star. "It's his final report after spending months on the case."

The book is already No. 16 on the Amazon.com bestseller list based on pre-publication orders.

The book follows The Blair Witch Project comic book, which tells three chapters of the Blair Witch legend. First there's the expulsion of purported witch Elly Kedwards from the early settlement called Blair. Next, there's the disappearance in the 1880s of a little girl and the ritual killing of five men who went searching for her. The comic book wraps up with the notorious case of Rustin Parr, a hermit who in the 1940s was hanged for murdering several children, reportedly after receiving instructions from a mysterious voice.

The comic book is selling well, and the publisher, Oni Press, announced it will reprint to meet demand.

And the filmmakers are already seeing tangible signs of their success: A commercial-quality foosball table was delivered Tuesday to Haxan's new office on the Disney-MGM Studios back lot. The filmmakers won it in a wager with Artisan executives when the film passed $10-million at the box office.

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