What makes a film like “Indecent Proposal” so successful?

In its second weekend “Indecent” grossed $ 14,724,600, for an extremely modest 20% drop. After 12 days of release has earned a tad more than $ 47 million.

As one industry observer noted, it’s a lot of money at any time of the year but especially for an April. Another was amazed considering that it hasn’t proved itself a critical favorite or rated particularly high in exit polling.

However, there’s another factor, which overrides all others and is impossible to track prior to or during the run of a film. It occurs when a picture becomes part of everyday conversation.

“You might call it Masonic,” said Robert Resnick, a psychiatrist with the Santa Monica-based Gestalt Institute. “In the case of ‘The Crying Game,’ it truly was the sharing of a secret. Ordinarily, it just means that a film touches a societal nerve and becomes part of the vocabulary. In order to take part in the discussion, you obviously have to have seen it.”

Good, bad or indifferent, the relative skill of the filmmakers is likely the least important aspect of why films become part of the Zeitgeist. In essence, per Resnick and others, they facilitate a way to deal with matters often too difficult to address directly.

So, in very simplistic terms, “Falling Down” is about the fragility of the American economy. More directly, it embraces the fears of losing one’s job.

Which brings us back to “Indecent Proposal’s” mass appeal. What would people do for $ 1 million, at a different time, in a different place, might make for a very amusing digression.

Socioeconomic implications

Today, its implications are economic, social and sexual and what, at another time and place, would be diverting, now cuts into the social fabric.

Even if the filmmakers aren’t terribly profound, print media will address the underlying implications of the material, which sets off a chain reaction that can only benefit a film’s commercial vitality. It is impossible to predetermine but, to paraphrase a former phenom, “If you make it relevant, they will come.”

MGM had the best news in who knows how long with the $ 3,285,063 opening of “Benny & Joon.”

Strong ‘Joon’

On just 408 screens, it managed sensational averages of $ 8,052. The film also gets an added boost from Johnny Depp’s appeal, as well as an unusually effective ad campaign.

Other openings were dampened by the “Indecent” juggernaut. Warner Bros’ “Boiling Point” generated $ 4,006,019 for uninspired averages of $ 2,811 for 1, 425 playdates.

B.O. gets kick

More encouraging was Triumph’s “Sidekicks,” which posted $ 3,614 averages from 150 dates for a weekend total of $ 542,048. Launched last week in Texas, it actually saw modest increases in second-weekend sites. Still, in an seemingly satiated kids pic market, it will have to do some fancy steps to stay above the fray.

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