UPDATE: I’m told the latest Borat tracking shows a slight uptick — especially among young males — but Disney’s Santa Clause 3 is still gonna beat it at the box office November 3rd. “Borat gaining, but still no awareness in the middle of the country,” I’m told. “Fox is cutting back on the number of theaters where it’ll open to just those in the big cities.” So Fox blinked. The studio suddenly trimmed Borat’s opening to just 800 screens in the U.S. and Canada in what it announced was a “tiered theatrical release.” A better word for it would have been retreat. Most of these theaters are in big cities, with the studio hoping that word of mouth will motivate the local yokels to see it. Of course, that was after the much hyped film’s first four minutes were “leaked” onto YouTube on Oct. 19th. (Then again, the whole Studio 60 pilot was “leaked” onto YouTube and its NBC ratings were still crappy.) Fox suits still anticipate this misogynist, anti-Semitic, and utterly hysterical spoof will have legs. But look for Borat and Dreamworks’ kiddie fare Flushed Away to be neck-and-neck for No. 2 (though Sacha Baron Cohen’s admirers will raise the per screen average.) But take note: the “Shrimp Running On A Treadmill” video is still way more of a YouTube favorite than Borat. As I reported here previously, “The middle of the country is not in on the Borat joke yet,” one movie marketing expert explained. Few pics have received as much pre-release publicity as Sacha Baron Cohen’s satire, whose full title is Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Though the Fox flick opens on November 3rd, it started making waves at the Cannes Film Festival and wowed audiences at September’s Toronto Film festival. Recently, Cohen, in character as a fictional TV reporter, Borat Sagdiyev, the “sixth most famous man in Kazakhstan”, staged various Washington D.C. publicity stunts outside the White House gates and Kazakh Embassy during a state visit by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayevin (who was not amused). The media ate it up, and since then Cohen, already a cult figure as Ali G. on HBO, has been red hot in Hollywood. But Internet hype does not necessarily translate into box office hype, as New Line’s Snakes On A Plane showed. Lampooning Kazakh culture may be too elitist for Middle America. But Fox claimed it never thought Borat could beat the Santa sequel and believes the satire will start out as a “big hit” on college campuses and then build. “Don’t look at our opening numbers, look at our finishing numbers,” an exec told me.
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