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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Brokeback Mountain is doing just fine without the protests, thank you
Posted by Jill | 6:46 AM

The Christofascist zombies who thought that Brokeback Mountain would die a quiet death if they just ignored it must be gnashing their teeth, because on a per-screen basis, Ang Lee's film boasted a higher per-screen average than either of the big "family-friendly" films King Kong OR The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:

The Ang Lee film, which follows the 20-year forbidden romance between two roughneck ranch hands, earned $13,599 per theater, compared with $9,305 for weekend winner “King Kong” and $8,225 for “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”


“It delivered very strong growth in what is truly a highly unforgiving, competitive, cruel market at this Christmas period,” said Jack Foley, president of theatrical distribution for Focus Features. “It showed it has breadth beyond the gay community.”

Distributors planned to roll out the film slowly. It opened in just six theaters, where it earned an “unprecedented” $109,000 per venue, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

The film expanded to 69 theaters the following week, then to 217 over the holiday weekend, reaching suburban audiences in Portland, Dallas, Denver and Atlanta.

The gradual release allows moviegoers to talk up the film’s appeal, Foley said.

And it seems to be working.

“This is a film that builds through word of mouth and critical acclaim,” Dergarabedian said. “People want to see what all the fuss is about.”

Response has been so robust that distributors are expanding the film’s rollout ahead of schedule. It will show on 269 screens this Friday, and reach an additional 80 markets the following week, Foley said.

Still, he acknowledges that bringing a homosexual love story to the Bible Belt presents its own set of challenges. Various Christian groups voiced opposition to the film before its release.

Ted Baehr, who reviews films for the Christian Film & Television Commission, called the film “abhorrent” and “twisted, laughable, frustrating and boring neo-Marxist homosexual propaganda” in a review on the Commission’s MovieGuide Web site.

But based on the film’s reception in Atlanta and Dallas, Foley said he expects it will be well received in other markets.

“We’re rolling it out ahead of schedule because the demand is there,” he said.

Ever-building buzz can only help “Brokeback,” Dergarabedian said.

Granted, per-screen average isn't necessarily the statistic on which most people focus, but it does indicate a pattern of supply and demand, and clearly the demand is there for this film. Whether it's simple curiosity, a desire to see the most talked-about film of the season, the kind of groundswell that a film which really IS that good ordinarily generates, or the word-of-mouth which reassures the potentially squeamish that there is NOTHING in this film to make anyone but the most rabid Christofascist closet case upset, Brokeback Mountain is so far looking like the milestone it promised to be. Whether this is the beginning of a trend or a one-shot remains to be seen, but the film's success does show that the right-wing noise machine has overestimated its ability to influence popular culture where gay issues are concerned.
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