The R-rating given “Love Is Strange” didn’t seem to hurt it in its debut at the specialty box office this weekend.
The film starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a gay couple struggling with life changes took in $126,552 from five theaters in its limited opening. That’s a solid $25,310 per-screen average for the Sony Pictures Classics release.
The Motion Picture Association of America’s ratings board has come under fire for the film’s classification, given its lack of nudity or violence. The “R” rating lumps it in with other recent releases that are rife with bloody mayhem, like “Frank Miller‘s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.” Critics also pointed to “The Expendables 3,” the ammo-and-abs action film that launched last week with a “PG-13” classification.
An MPAA spokesman defended the rating to TheWrap: “The descriptor that accompanies the film’s rating notes that it is rated R for language — as is any film that includes the same level of strong language, regardless of subject matter.”
“Love Is Strange” is directed by Ira Sachs, who co-wrote with Mauricio Zacharias. In it, after Ben (Lithgow) and George (Molina) get married, they’re forced to reassess their lives when George is fired from his teaching post, forcing them to stay with friends separately while they sell their place.
The film, which played at the Sundance, Tribeca and Berlin film festivals, is a hit with critics and has a glossy 94 percent positive rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.
It’s easier for niche films to score at the specialty box office than with the mainstream, of course, so the jury is out on how “Love Is Strange” will play with broader audiences. Sony Pictures Classics will expand into a handful of new cities for the Labor Day weekend, and go wider the following week.