Propaganda fails at the box office.

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According to weekend estimates at boxofficemojo.com, the wide distribution of Syriana after its Golden Globe Award flopped. It added 1,183 screens last Friday, appearing in three times as many theaters as the prior weekend. Yet its gross only went up 52.8%.  In worse news for theater owners, it averaged a measly $712 per theater. At an average ticket price of $6.40, that's only 111 customers all weekend, a number which really hurts popcorn sales, usually the margin between profit and loss for many theatre operators.
 
This weekend also probably found the limits to the appeal of Brokeback Mountain, at the box office, while its strong of awards added but one trophy out of two competitions.  BM failed to win a single prize at the Screen Actors Guild awards (note: Kiefer Sutherland won the best actor award for a TV series for his portrayal of Jack Bauer in 24). But in the Directors Guild honors, Director Ang Lee did win the top award, his second such trophy, having previously won it for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg's high budget/high profile/critically praised film Munich failed to win a single award in the two weekend guild award shows.

Brokeback continues its campaign to mainstream a homosexual love story positioned in an iconic American genre, seeking to persuade Ameircans that it is okay to see it, because so many others are viewing it.

Since December there has been a clever but misleading marketing strategy that used critical praise to generate very high per screen receipts in very limited release. Advertising touting the critics' favorable verdict on BM drove crowds in cities to a limited number of art house venues, generating very high per screen box office totals, allowing the movie to be touted as a "hit" on the very limited basis of per screen revenues in limited release in deep blue locations

These per screen numbers were then used to proclaim the film a big box office in TV ads showing mountain scenery and men hugging children as if it were an American Heidi on horseback.  Braced by all this hype, the promoters finally herded* Brokeback Mountain out of the independent art houses and onto the screens of suburban cineplexes in red state America. 

But in these mainstream venues it found a cooler reception. Even though Brokeback Mountain expanded its nationwide release by 38% to 1654 theaters, its estimated gross fell 14.5% from the prior weekend.  It is currently running number 6 among films in release, and was overshadowed by the artistic triumph Big Momma's House 2, whose box office total and per screen grosses ($28 million and $8586) dwarfed BM's totals ($6.85 million and $3841, respectively).
 
*I am basing this statement on what happened in my metro area. The movie had been showing at our independent art house theater for two or three weeks. I assume it was pulled from the art house by the distributors when it moved to three of our five regional first run cineplex chains last Friday.  I say this because the indie theater was left promoting the revival of the Jack Nicholson film The Passenger and Breakfast on Pluto.  Since these films have per screen grosses a fraction of BM, I can't see an independent business owner willingly making such a change.

Rosslyn Smith  1 30 06

According to weekend estimates at boxofficemojo.com, the wide distribution of Syriana after its Golden Globe Award flopped. It added 1,183 screens last Friday, appearing in three times as many theaters as the prior weekend. Yet its gross only went up 52.8%.  In worse news for theater owners, it averaged a measly $712 per theater. At an average ticket price of $6.40, that's only 111 customers all weekend, a number which really hurts popcorn sales, usually the margin between profit and loss for many theatre operators.
 
This weekend also probably found the limits to the appeal of Brokeback Mountain, at the box office, while its strong of awards added but one trophy out of two competitions.  BM failed to win a single prize at the Screen Actors Guild awards (note: Kiefer Sutherland won the best actor award for a TV series for his portrayal of Jack Bauer in 24). But in the Directors Guild honors, Director Ang Lee did win the top award, his second such trophy, having previously won it for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg's high budget/high profile/critically praised film Munich failed to win a single award in the two weekend guild award shows.

Brokeback continues its campaign to mainstream a homosexual love story positioned in an iconic American genre, seeking to persuade Ameircans that it is okay to see it, because so many others are viewing it.

Since December there has been a clever but misleading marketing strategy that used critical praise to generate very high per screen receipts in very limited release. Advertising touting the critics' favorable verdict on BM drove crowds in cities to a limited number of art house venues, generating very high per screen box office totals, allowing the movie to be touted as a "hit" on the very limited basis of per screen revenues in limited release in deep blue locations

These per screen numbers were then used to proclaim the film a big box office in TV ads showing mountain scenery and men hugging children as if it were an American Heidi on horseback.  Braced by all this hype, the promoters finally herded* Brokeback Mountain out of the independent art houses and onto the screens of suburban cineplexes in red state America. 

But in these mainstream venues it found a cooler reception. Even though Brokeback Mountain expanded its nationwide release by 38% to 1654 theaters, its estimated gross fell 14.5% from the prior weekend.  It is currently running number 6 among films in release, and was overshadowed by the artistic triumph Big Momma's House 2, whose box office total and per screen grosses ($28 million and $8586) dwarfed BM's totals ($6.85 million and $3841, respectively).
 
*I am basing this statement on what happened in my metro area. The movie had been showing at our independent art house theater for two or three weeks. I assume it was pulled from the art house by the distributors when it moved to three of our five regional first run cineplex chains last Friday.  I say this because the indie theater was left promoting the revival of the Jack Nicholson film The Passenger and Breakfast on Pluto.  Since these films have per screen grosses a fraction of BM, I can't see an independent business owner willingly making such a change.

Rosslyn Smith  1 30 06