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The winners and losers of summer 1999

Including “American Pie,” “The Sixth Sense,” and “The Blair Witch Project”

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‘THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT’ [WINNERS]

If fictional Blair Witch characters Heather, Josh, and Mike rank as three of the most clueless filmmakers ever, real-life Blair Witch lensmen Daniel Myrick, 35, and Eduardo Sanchez, 30, are far and away the smartest. When the duo sold their $30,000 film to Artisan Entertainment at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, they made sure their deal included a piece of the profits for them as well as their three colleagues at Haxan Films. (Blair’s three stars have a smaller piece of the pie.) Once the film crossed the $10 million mark, their cuts kicked in. So $120 million later, exactly how rich are these Witch doctors? ”I’m not allowed to say,” Myrick says. ”But I’m looking at houses for the first time in my life.”

‘AMERICAN PIE’ [WINNERS]

Here’s the $94.1 million question behind this sleeper: Would you have flocked to American Pie if it had been called East Great Falls High? How about Virgin Territory? Or, perhaps the most objectionable, Baked Goods? All were titles proposed for this Porky‘s-like yarn starring a cast of mostly unknowns (who, thanks to winning performances, are not likely to stay that way). Along with a crust-poppin’ sex scene and aggressive marketing, changing the title was key to the movie’s success. Says Universal marketing president Marc Shmuger: ”We instantaneously went from a movie about a specific high school to a movie that felt like an anthem for a generation.”

‘THE SIXTH SENSE’ [WINNERS]

After three consecutive $20 million-plus weekends — helped by the gore-free flick’s PG-13 rating and a surprise ending that’s feeding buzz and repeat business — The Sixth Sense has moviegoers engaged in ”Better than Blair?” debates and talking Oscar for 11-year-old Haley Joel Osment. (His next project has him tackling…sixth grade.) Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan, who’s open to a sequel, is first trying to finish his next original script, also a suspense thriller. Success, which includes appearing with psychics on Larry King Live, has him feeling the pressure. ”It’s been impossible to sit down and write since the opening. Now I’m questioning my every decision. It’s a bit of a distraction — but a good distraction.”

JULIA ROBERTS MINNIE DRIVER [WINNERS]

”Julia Roberts, box office queen.” Definitely. Notting Hill and Runaway Bride have projected grosses of $116 million and $145 million, respectively, for a total of $261 million. What’s shocking is who’s hot on her heels…Minnie Driver. ”But I only saw her in that one movie where she wore that corset,” you say? Well, in addition to the $17.2 million hit An Ideal Husband, her summer repertoire included the voice of Jane in Tarzan ($165.5 million) and her one brilliant line as Brooke Shields in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut ($51.1 million), which brings her summer box office total to $233.8 million. Okay, Minnie wasn’t the main attraction, but Gwyneth and Winona would kill for numbers like these.