Controversial ‘Blue Is the Warmest Color’ off to solid start


This post has been updated. See below for details.

Despite a running time of three hours and a NC-17 rating, the controversial French film “Blue Is the Warmest Color” got off to a solid start at the box office this weekend.

Playing in limited release, the movie about a lesbian romance grossed $101,116, according to an estimate from distributor Sundance Selects. The movie was playing in two theaters in New York and two others in Los Angeles, meaning it averaged $25,279 per location.


That’s hardly one of the top debuts for an independent release this year -- just last weekend, for instance, “12 Years a Slave” started off with a $50,000-per-theater average. But considering the movie is 187 minutes long, has subtitles and the most restrictive MPAA rating, it’s not bad.

PHOTOS: ‘Blue Is the Warmest Color’ - The women, the scenes, the director

At the IFC Center in New York this weekend, the film’s NC-17 rating was not enforced -- understandable, given that IFC Films’ sister company released the movie. Mark Boxer, senior vice president of sales and distribution for Sundance Selects, said the Los Angeles cinemas did enforce the rating.

Given how many times “Blue is the Warmest Color” has made headlines in recent months, it’s no surprise that a decent number of moviegoers turned up to see it this weekend. Since the film won the Palme D’Or, the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize, in May, word of its graphic seven-minute sex scene has spread.

The film centers on a teenager (newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos) exploring her sexuality when she meets a more experienced college student (Léa Seydoux).

The film’s intensity has continued off-screen as well, with its actresses and director engaging in a public war of words.


In an interview with the Daily Beast, Exarchopoulos and Seydoux said in September that filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche treated them poorly on set, yelling at the mand forcing them to perform hundreds of takes. The director fired back, saying he no longer wanted the film to be released and calling Seydoux an “arrogant and spoiled child.”

Next weekend, “Blue is the Warmest Color” is to expand to about 50 theaters.

[Update, Oct. 28, 2:06 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said the distributor releasing “Blue is the Warmest Color” was IFC Films’ Sundance Selects. While the two are sister companies, IFC Films does not own Sundance Selects.]


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