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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

June 7, 2010 at 10:08 AM

Two stories of aftermath: “Goonies” and “Blair Witch”

So, did you know that “Goonies” is 25 years old this month? (Pause for a confession: I didn’t see “Goonies” back in 1985, for reasons that I cannot possibly remember.) This past weekend, a 25th anniversary celebration took place in Astoria, Oregon, where “Goonies” — a story of a crew of misfit kids (including Sean Astin, Josh Brolin and Cory Feldman) who go looking for treasure — was filmed. Based on this report from the Washington Post, it was a blast:

All of the hotel rooms are full. All of the bus tours are sold out. The autograph lines for the cast meet ‘n’ greets are five hours long. Hundreds of fans trip blissfully from costume contests to quiz nights. It’s like a stoner-free “Big Lebowski” fest. They greet each other on the street with “Hey, you Guu-uuuys!” — the official greeting of the Goonies.

The mayor of Astoria (caught just after judging a “Goonies” costume contest), who was an extra in the film a quarter-century ago, said that the movie is part of Astoria history. “As we go,” he says, “so go the Goonies.” It’s a pretty sweet story; check it out.
Less charming but also interesting is this AP story about the town of Burkittsville, Maryland — better known as the setting of the 1999 cult film “The Blair Witch Project.” (I didn’t review it, but did see it at the Neptune, and thought it, to put it mildly, overrated.) Since the movie, the town’s been plagued by tourists wondering what the witch is up to (to this day), with its only compensation being a quartet of rusty metal “Welcome to the HIstoric Village of Burkittsville” signs, paid for by the movie’s distributor. The town is now debating whether to sell the signs. No one in Burkittsville has any love for “The Blair Witch Project,” whose filmmakers didn’t ask the town’s permission before shooting. Notoriety snuck up, rather suddenly:

So one can imagine the shock when, in the summer of 1999, residents started getting e-mail from total strangers asking “Is the witch still doing things?” and describing the woods outside of town as treacherous, even though everybody knows if you walk long enough in any direction you will eventually run into a person or a cow.
Soon they figured out their town was in a movie — actually just the graveyard and a two-second shot of one of the gray and blue welcome signs posted at the four entrances. But that was enough.
Burkittsville was swarmed. Cars and tour buses jammed Main Street. Residents couldn’t get into their driveways. Souvenir hunters dug up cemetery dirt. Tombstones were vandalized. Kids, accustomed to riding their bikes with no hands down the farm alleys, were instructed never to play outside alone.

The moral of this story (which also includes an excellent quote from the town’s mayor, who said she learned to wear ” full makeup and a great nightie” when stepping out her door to collect her morning paper, because of tourists waiting with cameras): Don’t let your town’s real name turn up in a movie. And step carefully in Burkittsville, because you might run into a cow.

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