Protest doesn't hurt 'Basic Instinct' tickets

March 24, 1992|By David J. Fox | David J. Fox,Los Angeles Times

Hollywood -- The controversial movie "Basic Instinct," a sexual murder thriller about ice-pick slayings, jumped to the top of the national box-office standings in its debut weekend despite -- or perhaps aided by -- well-publicized protests.

The film's financially troubled producer, Carolco Pictures, and its distributor, TriStar Pictures, boasted a sizzling box-office tally of $15 million in tickets sold for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That estimated figure from industry sources put it well ahead of second-place "Wayne's World," which drew an estimated $7.8 million. That's down from the $18 million it drew when it opened on a holiday weekend, Feb. 14-17.

Nevertheless, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD, declared that it was satisfied with the response its actions at several movie theaters around the nation had generated. The group has called the film's depiction of bisexual women "gratuitously defamatory."

A different kind of satisfaction was expressed Sunday by the film's writer, Joe Eszterhas, who had feuded for a year with director Paul Verhoeven over creative differences. Mr. Eszterhas said that he was so delighted when he saw the film in a theater in Northern California that he called Mr. Verhoeven and sent him champagne.

Representatives of the more radical groups taking part in the protests, Queer Nation and another group whose name gives away the ending of "Basic Instinct's" killer, also said they were pleased with the weekend's developments. They said they had made their point.

"The success of the movie wasn't unexpected," said Judy Sisneros of Queer Nation. "All this publicity about the movie's ratings and the queer community's issues helped to generate interest. But that was a trade-off we had to accept in order to make our point."

The more important issue, Sisneros said, is the film industry's portrayal of gays and lesbians. "When Hollywood sends out negative images, it sends a message that we're not equal, that it's OK to bash us.

Her comments reflected the emotions of many in the homosexual community who point with alarm to rising hate crimes nationally.

"Basic Instinct" stars Michael Douglas as a hard-drinking, psychologically unstable detective who falls in love with the prime suspect in an ice-pick murder. The suspect, played by Sharon Stone, is a bisexual female novelist, whose female lover is presented as a violent, shadowy figure.

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