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Gay Films at the US Box Office

Heath Ledger, Michelle Williams in Brokeback Mountain
Give us more bisexual films.

Gregg Goldstein in The Hollywood Reporter – “Gay pride abounds, but indie gay films tank”:

“Gay pride season seems to be extending well beyond its official month of June. Gay marriage is now legal in California, stars are coming out of the closet (and woodwork) as never before, and NewFest – the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Film Festival – has kicked off the summer cycle of gay film festivals with its 20th anniversary run.

“So why are so many indie gay films doing worse than ever at the boxoffice [sic] and among critics?"


“Gay films doing worse than ever at the boxoffice and among critics”? I wonder how one can measure that. Does anyone actually have box office and review-meter reports for “gay movies” for 1985 or 1995 or even 2005? What exactly is a “gay film,” anyway? Would Capote be considered a “gay film”? My Beautiful Laundrette? Little Miss Sunshine?

In any case, is the current state of “gay indies” – whether in terms of box office or critical reception – any different than that of 99.9 percent of independent films, no matter the sexual orientation of their lead characters?

Most independent movies – whether American- or foreign-made – don’t get US theatrical distribution, while the lucky ones that do are seen by two (or, with some luck, three) people. They’re distributed by small companies that can’t afford multimillion-dollar mass-marketing campaigns. Whether gay or straight or anything in between, those films’ (and their distributors’) chief sources of revenue are cable TV, pay-per-view, and DVDs.

Even acclaimed, award-winning foreign films don’t have a chance in US theaters – unless they find a marketing-savvy studio like the old Miramax to push them. In fact, most non-English-language films never reach those shores, no matter how good or how popular elsewhere – including the gay-themed, French-language C.R.A.Z.Y., mentioned in the Hollywood Reporter article, which was a huge box office hit in Quebec.

There’s a larger context at work that is ignored in the HR piece. In other words, the problem isn’t with “gay films” per se, but with the big studios’ (i.e., corporate) domination of the American film marketplace. People can’t want to check out a movie they’ve never heard of, or one that isn’t playing anywhere near them.

And where are all those stars who have come out of both the closet and the woodwork?



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Marcus Tucker -

I recently read an article in VIBE magazine about how the black and Latino film markets are really thriving on the straight to DVD releases. I think gay films also benefit because theatrical releases tend to leave non family oriented or big action films out in the cold. I don’t think one can really measure the impact of a film by the box office pull. Just look at something like Grey Gardens, which was a little film that has become a Broadway musical and drama (2008 or 2009), it was even mentioned in a quirky little novel I just read. Brokeback Mountain had much more cultural impact than it did at the box office. Cleopatra was one of the greatest box office disappointments ever but it made Elizabeth Taylor an icon. Box office doesn’t mean as much as it used to.

Boyd -

I wondered the same thing about the stars… where are the hundreds of “out” actors he is talking about?


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