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.
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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.”