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They came by Metro bus and they came by automobile, but if they didn’t come with tickets, they went home fast. The scorching-hot concrete outside the Cineplex Odeon Outer Circle on Wisconsin Avenue last Sunday afternoon echoed with the groans of “It’s sold out?” as moviegoers looking for cinema verite and 90 minutes in air conditioning were turned away from The Blair Witch Project. The hottest-ticket-in-town status is quite an achievement for an indie film that relies on a creepy Web site, boot-licking cheers from the media, and virtually no TV ads for attention.

By its second weekend playing in only a handful of movie houses around the nation, including one in the style-impaired political outpost we call home, Blair Witch had turned into a big bitch to attend. The Sunday shows were sold out by early Saturday afternoon.

Or, at least, it seemed that way, because no answers were coming from the theater staff. The poor woman trying to control the 60-deep crowd with the frustrated zeal of an elementary school hall monitor refused to comment on even the most harmless questions. Apparently, someone in New York had sworn the staff to an oath of omerta on the situation.

Neither seat scarcity nor nefarious orders from New York could deter Duke University students Megan Kultgon, Robyn Guthrie, and Anne Robinson from seeing three film students get wacked in the woods. After being turned away in person on Wednesday, Robinson went through some impressive effort to see a movie that cost less to make than the retail price of a Honda Accord. “I tried to buy [tickets] on the phone on Thursday, but they were sold out until Saturday,” she said of her ordeal. “We came yesterday and bought the last three tickets for Sunday. They were sold out for today by noon [yesterday].” Afterward, Guthrie and Robinson thought the effort worthwhile, but not the motion-sensitive Kultgon, who was forced by the film’s handheld camera style to keep her eyes shut throughout. “I think it would have been scarier if I’d been watching,” she concluded.—P. Mitchell Prothero