Specialty box office: Moviegoers flock to olds and gay men having sex

Christophe Paou and Pierre Deladonchamps cuddle in "Stranger by the Lake." Credit: Strand Releasing
Christophe Paou and Pierre Deladonchamps cuddle in “Stranger by the Lake.”
Credit: Strand Releasing

In a recent New York Times Sunday Book Review think piece, English author Fay Weldon pointed out that few publishing houses are entranced by novels about the sex lives of older women. The trick, she says, is to put the thoughts and experiences of them into characters three or four decades younger — however improbable and silly that may seem.

And yet this weekend at the specialty movie box office, according to Indiewire, audiences made the Chilean dramedy “Gloria” the biggest art house debut — despite it being about a 58 year old divorcee (Paulina Garcia) on the prowl, a subject Weldon would say is not in vogue. Debuting in three theaters, it grossed $58,775 for a terrific $19,592 average. (We reviewed it here.)

Moviegoers bucked another trend this weekend. The other big debuting winner was “Stranger by the Lake,” which features scores of male nudity and sex, some of it hardcore. It’s a demographic that doesn’t do much crossover business, even while audiences can’t wait to watch two young lesbians go at it in “Blue is the Warmest Color.” “Stranger,” set at a gay cruising site, didn’t do remotely those numbers, but it did take in $26,741 for a still impressive $13,370 average. (It may have gotten a slight bump from its director, Alain Guiraudie, getting a complete retro at Lincoln Center at the same time. Our rave can be found here.)

This weekend also saw the latest maximalist art film from Godfrey Reggio, who in 1983 saw a sizable hit with “Koyaanisqatsi,” whose time-lapse photography was then stolen by filmmakers and ad people alike. “Visitors,” which consists of mostly faces looking back at the audience, saw a $10,742 gross from a single theater — not great, but promising for its future as an “event” film. (Our review is here and our interview with Reggio and assistant director/editor Jon Kane is here.)

As far as Oscar nominee holdovers go, “12 Years a Slave” expanded slightly and took in another $2 million gross, for a $43.5 million cume. Ditto “Dallas Buyers Club,” which now claims $20.4 million. “Philomena” took in another million for $25.8 total, while “Nebraska” — which has Bruce Dern, June Squib and its director, Alexander Payne, up for noms — grabbed another $1.5 million to total $11.6 million.

Perhaps best of all, the Italian “The Great Beauty” — nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and winner of the Golden Globe equivalent — made another $108,893. So far, this challenging, long, often brilliant film has made $1.4 million, which is nothing to sneeze at.


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