Here's a riddle for you: If a supposedly controversial film opens on more than 800 screens and practically no one sees it, can it really be considered "controversial"?
That would be "September Dawn," the fictionalized drama that depicts events from the Sept. 11, 1870, Mountain Meadows Massacre, in which more than 120 settlers were killed.
Despite a flurry of pre-opening publicity, the movie pretty much bombed over its opening weekend.
Playing on 857 screens around the country, the film only occupied about a quarter as many theaters as major-studio releases but it was still a big release for an independent production.
Yet, according to some in-dispute box-office tracking, the film grossed a mere $635,000, finishing well out of the top 10 for the weekend. "September Dawn" placed at No. 23, below the studio-produced flops "The Last Legion" and "Daddy Day Camp."
And "Dawn's" paltry per-screen average of $740 was one of the worst openings for a movie in recent memory. (The blockbuster "Transformers" has been playing for two months, but it still grossed nearly $1,400 per screen in a similar number of locations.)
None of which has stopped my one-star review of the film from generating debate. The message boards on the Deseret Morning News Web site have been filled with more than 100 comments either praising or panning my opinion.
My favorite of these referred to the critique as being "biased." By nature, a review is biased. As I'm fond of pointing out, a review is simply one man's opinion.And for those who insist that I had some sort of agenda, I'll say this: My review of the film was based on its cinematic merits or lack thereof and nothing else.
YOU WANT SOME FACTS WITH YOUR STORY? For those interested in seeing a more balanced film about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Salt Lake's Tower Theatre is hosting a screening of the documentary "Burying the Past: Legacy of the Mountain Meadows Massacre" on Sept. 11.The 7 p.m. showing will be followed with a question-and-answer session with filmmaker Brian Patrick. "Burying the Past" will also play in St. George on Sept. 9 in the Flood Street Theaters, 140 N. 400 East (www.buryingthepast.com or www.saltlakefilmsociety.org).
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. The Salt Lake Film Society, which runs both the Tower and the Broadway Centre Cinemas, is also hosting Global Lens 2007.
An organization called the Global Film Initiative is responsible for programming this touring event, which showcases narrative features and short films from Third World countries, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.Consisting of 10 features, this year's program will play for a week, starting Friday, in the Broadway Centre, 111 E. Broadway (www.globalfilm.org or www.saltlakefilmsociety.org).
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