'127 Hours' crowds stay upright
After all the talk about fainting at "127 Hours" screenings, it turns out that the only people passing out might be those monitoring the film's grosses.
Fox Searchlight opened Danny Boyle's film, in which James Franco plays a trapped canyoneer forced to cut off his own arm to survive, to a very impressive $66,000 average on four screens in Los Angeles and New York, for a weekend total of $266,000. With a number of sellouts, the movie had one of the best limited openings of the year, edged by only "The Kids Are All Right" among mainstream releases.
Though it's impossible to know how the fainting reports ultimately affected the box office, moviegoers in these markets appeared unconcerned about -- or perhaps even piqued by -- a string of pre-release incidents in which filmgoers fainted during the movie's graphic amputation scene.
The real test, however, is yet to come. The film is turning into something of a media darling, but as the movie expands to 21 theaters in seven cities next week and eventually to a national rollout on Dec. 3, Searchlight aims to do something trickier: transfer the interest from the nation's two biggest media markets to smaller and more suburban realms.
To do that, it will deemphasize the movie's visceral aspects in favor of a theme of uplift. "What we want to show people is that this movie is about more than one graphic scene," said Sheila DeLoach, Fox Searchlight executive vice president. "It's a heartwarming movie about how strong our will to live is and what one person does in order to live."
As it seeks new horizons, the studio hopes to attract older audiences (many of the filmgoers this weekend, it said, were in the 20- to 40-year-old range).
In the meantime, the studio is happy about one thing: the absence of paramedics at screenings. "People may have closed their eyes or gripped their seats," DeLoach said. "But we didn't have any incidents."
— Steven Zeitchik
Photo: James Franco in "127 Hours." Credit: Fox Searchlight
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