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FIRST-PERSON: America turns its back on Brokeback

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–While the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences might be all a-twitter over a homosexual cowboy movie, it seems that America’s movie-going public may not be as enamored as we have been led to believe.

“Brokeback Mountain” is in the running for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture. But the front-runner in nominations has not received the bump in theater attendance that normally accompanies such Oscar accolades.

According to Newsweek magazine, once a film is nominated for Best Picture it normally means “big box-office increases.”

Last year “Million Dollar Baby” realized an 88 percent increase in theater attendance between the time it was nominated and the evening of the Academy Awards. During the same timeframe the movie “Chicago” saw a 100 percent increase, Newsweek reported.

But ever since Brokeback was nominated for Best Picture on Jan. 31, attendance for the much ballyhooed film has declined every week. After peaking at nearly 2,100 theaters Feb. 3-5, it is now playing in some 1,300 theaters and drawing fewer and fewer patrons. In fact, since it was nominated for Best Picture, Brokeback has taken in less money in each succeeding weekend (with the exception of Feb. 17-20, which was a four-day holiday weekend).

The movie was predicted to take in $100 million by Oscar time. The Academy Awards are March 5, and the Ang Lee-directed film has raked in only around $75 million, approximately 25 percent less than expected.

The release of Brokeback was done piecemeal in order to create as much buzz as possible. It opened Dec. 9 on five screens in three cities –- New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The film took in an impressive $500,000 in those five theaters over the first weekend.

While some were impressed with the average of $100,000 per screen during Brokeback’s premiere weekend, I was not. Why? First of all, each city that Brokeback debuted in has large homosexual populations. Second, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco are decidedly liberal and strive to be oh so politically correct. I am sure that quite a few homosexuals saw the movie more than once that initial weekend.

The movie has made a handsome profit -– it only cost $14 million to produce, a mere pittance by today’s moviemaking standards. However, due to its rapid decline at the box-office, it has to be considered a box-office blunder.

Rewind a couple of years. Can you imagine the media focus had “The Passion of the Christ” declined in attendance after its debut? The headlines would have trumpeted the failure of the film centered on Jesus’ crucifixion.

I don’t know whether or not the majority of the media is motivated by an effort to avoid appearing “homophobic” or trying to promote homosexuality as normal. However, what I do know it that Brokeback’s decline at the box-office has been all but ignored by the media, which continue to herald it as critically acclaimed and point to its numerous awards.

While the movie-going public tolerates all sorts of sins in the name of entertainment, it seems that it is just not quite ready for a film featuring two Hollywood hunks pursuing an immoral and adulterous relationship — no matter how many accolades it receives. I, for one, hope it stays that way.
Boggs is editor of the Baptist Message newspaper in Louisiana.

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  • Kelly Boggs