Did a prohibitive NC-17 rating stop moviegoers from seeing "Killer Joe" at theaters this weekend?
Maybe. The film, which stars Matthew McConaughey as a Dallas detective who also kills people for money, debuted in limited release this weekend and grossed $37,864, according to an estimate from distributor LD Entertainment. Playing in three New York theaters, that amounted to only a so-so per-location average of $12,621.
The last NC-17 rated film to hit theaters, the sex-addict drama "Shame," started off with a per-theater average of $36,118 in December. That movie, which starred Michael Fassbender, ultimately collected $3.9 million -- making it the seventh-highest grossing film ever with the restrictive rating. The No. 1-grossing NC-17 film of all time is "Showgirls," about a dancer in Las Vegas, which sold $20.4 million worth of tickets in 1995.
In March, LD Entertainment president David Dinerstein sought to have the film's rating downgraded to an R, but the Motion Picture Assn. of America upheld the NC-17 label, citing "graphic disturbing content involving violence and sexuality, and a scene of brutality."
The picture, which premiered a year ago at the Venice International Film Festival, has so far earned respectable reviews and currently has a 75% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Directed by William Friedkin -- best known for helming "The Exorcist" -- the ultra-violent movie also stars Emile Hirsch, Gina Gershon and Juno Temple.
Next weekend, the box office prospects for "Killer Joe" may start to become clearer when the film expands to six additional cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas.
Follow Amy Kaufman on Twitter @AmyKinLACopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times