Box Office: ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Capitalizes on Bad Boy Controversy

The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese's raunchy comedy has raked in $63 million and counting at domestic B.O.

Martin Scorsese is no stranger to controversy. And with his latest romp, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the legendary director again has drummed up full-bodied brouhaha that has piqued audience curiosity and set turnstiles spinning.

This past weekend, “Wolf,” which some people say glorifies drug use and profanity, grossed an estimated $13.4 million, dropping just 27% in its second frame, making it one of the best holds of the weekend.

In a little over two weeks, the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill has grossed more than $63 million domestically, a strong result that falls in between such recent past successes as “The Fighter” and “True Grit.” (The latter grossed north of $175 million domestic; “Wolf” may top out at around $125 million.)

Scorsese adds a level of prestige to “Wolf” that perhaps elevates the film to a slightly classier version of raunchy.

But what makes the gross for “Wolf” even more impressive is the film’s nearly three-hour run time limiting the number of screenings it can have in a day, as well as the restrictive ‘R’ rating.

Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore said “Wolf” so far has capitalized on the water-cooler effect, adding that the film’s intent is to create dialogue debating the film’s controversial subject matter.

“There is certainly a lot of debate about the movie and the CinemaScore,” Moore said, referring to the film’s divisive ‘C’ rating, “but when you have a movie about excess, that can be very polarizing.”

“Wolf of Wall Street,” which is based on the autobiographical book by New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort, features the use of the f-word more than 500 times, making it a record for the most usages of that word in a single movie. But more than its adult language, the film has been criticized as being misogynistic, creating waves with some adult moviegoers including members of the Academy of the Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences recently.

Leonardo DiCaprio: ‘We’re Not Condoning This Behavior’

Generally speaking, Scorsese’s films have featured heavily adult content, especially mob-themed films such as “Goodfellas” and “Casino,” both of which made north of $40 million at the North American box office.

However, any one of the director’s past films likely has not been this controversial since “The Last Temptation of Christ” in 1988, when it was judged harshly as an auteuristic Biblical adaptation. That film earned Scorsese a best director Oscar nomination, though it earned only $8 million domestically.

A few raised eyebrows hasn’t deterred Paramount from broadening “Wolf” to smaller U.S. markets. The studio plans to expand “Wolf” to north of 3,000 domestic locations on Friday. Pic currently is playing at 2,557.

“This movie sparks conversation,” Moore said. “You can see by how the movie is holding that people clearly are talking about it.”

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  1. Tag says:

    Apparently national curiosity continues to spike Wolf Of Wall Street box office grosses. After holding for a stellar second weekend amid the Frozen tundra of the United States last weekend, Wolf surged to number one last night with 2 million dollars in ticket sales. If the surge continues and it holds number one for the remainder of the week, it will have no problem getting to $90 million by Monday. It will definitely soar past $100 million before the revealing of the Oscar nominations. Hope Scorsese takes it one last time before his swan song.

  2. Mari says:

    I can’t believe a movie like this is playing in our theatres at a time when drug use Is such a huge problem. The drugs and sex is over the top, I don’t feel it was needed as much as it was in this movie. The movie itself was good, I just did not enjoy seeing the over excessive use of drugs.

  3. Tia says:

    I’m actually a bit confused as to why some people are in such an uproar over this film. Personally, I found the drugs, sex, and profanity in the film to be a bit overrated. However, if Jordan’s memiors communicate that this was his lifestyle and behaviors while a stock broker on wall street, then it is what it is. Yes, some of us would have liked for Jordan to go to jail and never return, but the reality is that many wealthy and powerful people “get away” with their wrong doings (Although Jordan did not), and are self-entitled, but that’s the world, and what happens in the world ends up on film. So tough! I think it is up to the audience to pull meaning from such a film.

  4. Richard R says:

    It’s earning almost exactly the same as American Hustle, which has been out two weeks longer. Wonder what controversy Hustle is benefitting from?

  5. John Miller says:

    It shouldn’t be a surprise that “Wolf” isn’t the most popular movie with America at the moment. It’s pretty tough for there to be a “shocked, shocked!” reaction from the filmmakers. After investment “professionals” like Madoff screwed over investors, and American taxpayers had to bail out companies like AIG, it’s pretty understandable that audiences aren’t in a hurry to plunk down $13 or whatever to see Belfort and friends partying while blowing their investors’ money. Plus, the slaps on the wrist these guys too often get doesn’t help too much, either.

    The movie sounds interesting and could be very good, but I’ll wait for TV availability to see it.

  6. Rosalind Pett says:

    Wow….how low can we go…..!!! the old saying….art imatates life……watched a family leave the movie…if this is real…and it seems so…..the rise and fall of the Roman Empire comes to mind,,,,!!! Well acted….but not one of Leonardo’s ……finest hours ….or society’s …..!!!! A sad Grandmother….

  7. Maxine says:

    I was very dissapointed that Leonardo was in a movie with so much nudity, drugs, sex and vulga language. It really could have been a great movie but these things were a real turnoff….

  8. Sam says:

    It is a great movie and worth seeing. It has a solid straightforward story. Personally I would rather see an engaging funny adult story as opposed to an ultra violent one. Leonardo dicaprio should win best actor this year.

  9. Mandy Moe says:

    And today’s party line on Wolf is… “we love the controversy!” Ha, ha.

  10. BillBob says:

    Surely the author means ‘piqued’:

    “To provoke; arouse: The portrait piqued her curiosity.”

    It ain’t just the movies dumbing down pop culture these days…

    Anyways, can’t wait to see this, and regardless of f-bombs (not to mention the irony that Hollywood be poking the borax at Wall Street) am loving that pic is ‘piquing’ discussion of our inequitable, venal and avaricious global economic system, while despairing that anything will really change. Ever.

    From Noo Zeeland, famously (really only somewhat) egalitarian home of the Hobbits.

  11. I’m an Academy member (Documentary branch), and I vote on Best Picture. I don’t know (yet) if this is my #1 for this year, or if it should win Best Pic. BUT, it is absolutely genius filmmaking. I am unambiguous about that. The writing, the acting, the casting, the set dressing and physical nuance… are all superb. And the Directing… well when you’re one of the best, and everything else IS the best, Directing is not as big a challenge. Nice shots, Mr. Scorcese (and delicious editing, Ms. Schoonmaker); and clearly the actors were enjoying playing their roles; again- great actors with juicy parts and great lines. And one social note: this film DOES NOT condone the behavior it exhibits; when it was done, my first thought was, “I never want to have a selfish thought ever again for the rest of my life”. If anything, this film is a huge rhetorical statement on the perversion of excess.

  12. Exclusionary says:

    At least three quarters of the “people talking about it” are obviously the movie’s professional apologists.

    • Geez- movie people get no respect!… “obviously professional apologists”… is a shallow (and uninformed) criticism, in my opinion. How could it possibly be “obvious”, as your conjecture implies? How about just “professionals” who have informed opinions that correspond to what is real and true in regards to their own sensibilities? But, then again, we filmmakers also seem to be readily available targets for everyone’s projections of themselves. At least we get to actually make films :)

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