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'Brokeback' finds a welcome in the 'burbs

December 19, 2005|R. Kinsey Lowe | Times Staff Writer

Will "Brokeback Mountain" play in Plano? In the movie's first weekend in the Dallas suburb where the 2004 Mel Gibson film "The Passion of the Christ" earned some of its biggest grosses, the answer appeared to be yes.

After setting a record for the per-theater average for a dramatic movie in limited openings in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, critically acclaimed "Brokeback Mountain" faced its next obstacle as Focus Features expanded the so-called gay cowboy movie to strategically selected smaller cities.

The movie, directed by Ang Lee and starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as two ranch hands who develop an enduring emotional bond, "Brokeback Mountain" took in an additional $2.36 million in its first foray outside those three metropolitan cities, rising to No. 8 at the box office, Focus Features estimated Sunday. Its 10-day total is $3.3 million.

The closely watched debut in Plano, Texas, "was a revelation about the accessibility of this movie," said Focus head of distribution Jack Foley. "This is not gay-dependent. Attendance at those theaters indicates the film has the attention of suburban moviegoers."

It was the first time since Disney's animated "Pocahontas" in 1995 that a movie in fewer than 100 theaters cracked the top 10 box office ranking, according to tracking service Nielsen EDI Inc.

"It was the No. 3 movie in the Legacy," a 24-screen Cinemark theater in the Dallas suburb, Foley said, "behind 'King Kong' and 'Narnia.' "

"Plano is a very upscale, affluent community. 'King Kong' in two days grossed $43,000; 'Chronicles of Narnia,' $33,000; ['Brokeback'] grossed $11,644; 'The Family Stone' grossed [$10,000]; and 'Syriana' grossed [$5,000]," Foley said. "That was one of two runs in Plano" for "Brokeback," Foley said. "The other was in the Angelika, an art house, where it grossed $14,780 in two days.

"This is a city where 'The Passion of the Christ' played in a Cinemark house and accrued one of the biggest grosses in the United States," he noted.

New York, L.A., San Francisco and Philadelphia suburbs were very strong, Foley said. "The Playhouse in Pasadena grossed $27,948 in two days; the [South Coast Village] theater in Costa Mesa in Orange County took in $31,775 over two days."

From Miami's South Beach to St. Louis, where the midtown Tivoli theater reported $22,923 in two days, the result is the same, Foley said. Although Focus initially hadn't intended to add more theaters until Jan. 6, based on this weekend's figures "we're planning to expand the film judiciously."

With the mega-budgeted "King Kong" catching the broader industry off guard with a five-day total of $66.2 million, far less muscular than expected, the only other big movie to open this weekend, the meet-the-in-laws comedy "The Family Stone," took in about $12.7 million, 20th Century Fox reported Sunday.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Box Office

Preliminary results (in millions) based on studio projections.

*--* Movie 3-day gross Total King Kong $50.1 $66.2

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and 31.2 112.5 the Wardrobe

The Family Stone 12.7 12.7

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 5.9 252.6

Syriana 5.5 22.3

Walk the Line 3.6 82.5

Yours, Mine and Ours 3.4 45.1

Brokeback Mountain 2.4 3.3

Just Friends 2.0 29.4

Aeon Flux 1.7 23.1

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Source: Nielsen EDI Inc.

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Los Angeles Times

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