Sex addict drama ‘Shame’ has solid debut despite NC-17 rating

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Despite its restrictive NC-17 rating, ‘Shame’ had a solid debut at the box office this weekend.

The drama, which stars Michael Fassbender as a sex addict, grossed $361,181, according to an estimate from distributor Fox Searchlight. Its per-theater average of $36,118 is the third-highest for an NC-17 film in limited debut, behind Pedro Almodovar’s ‘Bad Education’ and Ang Lee’s ‘Lust, Caution.’

“NC-17 films always create a challenge, but the late shows were very strong,” said Sheila DeLoach, the studio’s executive vice president. “With the midnight shows being sold out, it’s encouraging that we’ll do well with a young, edgy audience.”

Searchlight is planning to expand the film from 10 to 19 theaters next weekend, but it remains to be seen how wide of a reach the picture will have. Cinemark, the nation’s No. 3 theater chain, has a policy against showing NC-17 rated movies. The No. 4 chain, Carmike, has yet to book ‘Shame.’


But exhibitor policies don’t worry DeLoach, she said: “I don’t think that’s really going to impact the box office of the film.”

‘Shame’ is the first NC-17 film to be released nationally since 2007’s ‘Lust, Caution,’ which ended up grossing $4.6 million. The top-grossing NC-17 film of all time is ‘Showgirls,’ about a dancer in Las Vegas, which collected $20.4 million in 1995.


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— Amy Kaufman