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Not So Deep Throat?
Michael Hiltzik questions the publicity pitch for the docu about the movie Deep Throat that claims it is the most profitable pic ever made, and has grossed over $600 million. He takes the press to task for failing to question the numbers:

Leaving aside that "Deep Throat" was financed by mobsters and that therefore any figures are suspect, logic and arithmetic alone are enough to tell you that its box-office gross could not remotely have approached $600 million.

We're talking about a movie that was released in 1972, banned in half the country and generally exhibited in one theater at a time even in the biggest cities, such as New York and Los Angeles.

The average U.S. ticket price in 1972, according to the Motion Picture Assn. of America, was $2.05. By 1980, when the "Deep Throat" phenomenon was way played out, the average was still only $2.69.

For the movie to have made $600 million at the box office, in other words, it would have had to sell tickets to enough customers to populate the entire United States one and a half times over.

The No. 1 mainstream movie of the 1970s, by the way, was "Star Wars." To date, its domestic theatrical gross is $461 million. You want to tell me that "Deep Throat" has sold more tickets than "Star Wars"?

One credulous report in the New York Times recently attributed the lofty gross enjoyed by "Deep Throat" to "videocassette and DVD sales and rentals." Unfortunately, home video players didn't even appear on the market until two years after the movie's release, and didn't become a mass-market device until after 1990. (In 1985, the average price of a home VCR still exceeded $600.)

I've seen references to a videocassette of "Deep Throat" being the "bestselling sex videotape of all time," but hype is hype. Oddly enough, this miraculous product seems to have vanished from the face of the Earth without leaving a trace; you can't even find it on EBay.

Contemporary box-office reports also put the lie to Universal's PR. The most commonly cited estimates of ticket sales when the movie became the focus of a 1976 obscenity trial in Memphis were $30 million to $50 million, nationwide.

In 1981, Pussycat Theaters, an X-rated franchise in Los Angeles that screened the movie for 10 years straight, placed its L.A. gross over that period at $6 million — and that included money attributable to pictures with which it shared a double bill. Are there 100 other cities where "Deep Throat" was shown nonstop for a decade? Is there one?

Posted by aalkon at February 24, 2005 8:00 AM

Comments

Well, it's always good when the truth comes to light, but I can't help but think that this particular deception was really inconsequential. In other words: What-EVER!

Posted by: The Devil in Miss Lena at February 24, 2005 9:48 AM

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