Why Is the Vatican Afraid of This Little Gay Movie?
The Italian Conference of Bishops' Film Evaluation Commission on Friday ruled that Weekend was unfit for Italian cinemas. But rather than harpooning the movie's box office performance, the official Vatican condemnation seems to be boosting interest in the independent film.
Directed by Andrew Haigh (Looking), the acclaimed 2011 British independent film is about a budding romance between two men.
The Italian commission found the film to be “not advised, unusable, and scabrous (indecent or salacious).” In addition to the film’s sexual content, the bishops also objected to its characters' drug use.
Nevertheless, Weekend boasted Italy’s highest-per-theater average of any film last weekend — earning $6,221 per theater, according to Variety. That’s roughly $2,000 more than its closest competition: Allegiant, the recent Divergent sequel, which took in $4.217 per Italian screen ahead of its U.S. release.
At Rome’s Quattro Fontane, the capital’s renowned art house cinema, the film did even better, taking in a massive $17,782 per screen. Weekend was effectively selling out for every showtime.
Weekend was re-released in Italy following the success of Haigh’s 45 Years, the Oscar-nominated film starring Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling as a long-married couple facing a crisis. That movie had been strongly endorsed by the church.
Teodora Films, the distributor behind the film’s Italian push, argued that the Vatican’s decision on Weekend is a clear indication of antigay censorship, reports Agence France-Presse.
“I cannot see any other explanation than a problem of homophobia in the Church,” Tedora president Cesare Petrillo told AFP. “They decided it was unacceptable, that it should be censored and they have used their power to paralyse the distribution.”
Weekend was all but banned from the 1,100 theaters the Church owns, which comprise a majority of the independent arthouse theaters in Italy. Following the commission's decision, the film opened in only 10 locations. According to Variety, the film is proving so popular that other theaters are taking notice, with Weekend expected to screen in 11 additional locations in subsequent weeks.
As the AFP notes, the Vatican doesn’t officially decide what is screened in its theaters, though the commission offers recommendations. As such, individual theaters do have the power to disregard the commission's suggestion. Currently, Weekend is one of Italy’s top 20 earners, despite its modest release, and it could go even higher if more theaters decide to ignore the church’s ruling.
Weekend isn't the first LGBT film to face opposition from the church. Recently, the Vatican labeled Tom Hooper’s Oscar-nominated The Danish Girl, starring Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe, one of the first transgender people known to undergo gender-confirmation surgery, as “problematic.”
Despite that classification, the film has grossed $3.9 million in Italy since debuting in February, one its most successful releases in any country. On its first weekend in theaters, The Danish Girl finished in fourth — just behind Zootopia and Deadpool.