The Weinstein Co./AP
Sometimes the real world and the movies intersect in truly awful, unexpected ways, which was the case this weekend, when The Weinstein Company released "Fruitvale Station," based on the real-life shooting death of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old African American who was killed by a transit cop in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Weinstein Company couldn't have anticipated that late Saturday George Zimmerman would be acquitted of killing young African American man Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012 -- a verdict that has ignited a firestorm of negative reactions across Hollywood and the public at large.
The controversial ruling contributed to increased interest in the suddenly especially timely "Fruitvale Station," with Weinstein Company president of distribution Erik Loomis telling The Hollywood Reporter, "Obviously, this event puts the movie in the public zeitgeist."
Emotions surrounding both the Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin cases fed the strong specialty box office for "Fruitvale Station," with the gritty indie scoring a per-screen average of $54,000 -- the highest of any movie this weekend -- from the seven locations where the film is being shown. This included sold-out screenings in Oakland, California, where Oscar was from.
Compare this to last summer, when Fox's sci-fi comedy "Neighborhood Watch" was hastily renamed "The Watch" and its entire marketing campaign drastically altered in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting. (Zimmerman was a member of a Florida neighborhood watch when he shot and killed Martin, who was unarmed.) That movie bombed horribly, largely thanks to an uncomfortable connection with the case and Fox's absolute confusion about what, exactly, to do with the movie.
Zimmerman's acquittal has hit those involved with "Fruitvale Station" particularly hard. A Q&A with star Michael B. Jordan, whose performance as Oscar is one of the year's finest (he should start practicing his Academy Awards speech), was almost canceled on Saturday following the announcement of the verdict.
"My heart hurts so bad right now," Jordan told the audience. "I wasn't going to come after I found out about George Zimmerman getting acquitted. It broke me up. That's why I think this film means so much, because it keeps happening again and again. [We must] learn how to treat each other better and stop judging one another just because we're different. It's not just a black and white thing, it's a people thing."
[via THR, Variety, Deadline]