We’re hearing this morning that MoviePass accounted for 40% of the $1.67M opening ($668K) to John Travolta mob pic Gotti, which took headlines over the weekend for its 0% Rotten Tomatoes score from 23 critics.

During CinemaCon, the monthly movie ticket service took a low-seven figure stake in the reported $10M budgeted feature which has willed itself to existence over the last seven years, and ultimately acquired the pic’s production company, Emmett Furla Oasis Films. MoviePass accounted for roughly 25%-35% of the opening four-theater $135K weekend of The Orchard’s American Animals, which they also took a piece of out of Sundance. Many in the industry are already writing MoviePass’ obituary, yet anecdotally we hear from non-MoviePass sources that the subscription service is driving midweek business at local LA indie theaters with the under 25 demo and summer vacation in effect. How long will this ride last? The stock price for MoviePass’ parent company Helios & Matheson remains in the gutter having closed at $0.34 on Friday.

Some indie distribution rivals aren’t impressed with Gotti‘s start at 503 locations, saying that a $3M opening would have been better. There’s also a mixed feeling over MoviePass’ participation, which marketed the pic heavily to their 3M subscribers. Knocked one independent studio boss recently on MoviePass’ push for American Animals and Gotti, “It used to be in distribution, we’d all gossip whether a studio was buying tickets to their own movie to goose their opening. But in the case of MoviePass, there’s no secret: They’re literally buying the tickets to their own movie!” Another indie boss says that the 40% share is “totally unverifiable”.

Meanwhile, those behind Gotti are really bummed by the critical response. That said, the pic was largely shielded from critics who’ve blasted it for celebrating New York’s dangerous dapper don, and being an also-ran of Scorsese pics and The Sopranos. 

“The movie performed very well in New York, Los Angeles, and the five cities John Travolta and Kelly Preston toured (Phoenix, Dallas, Chicago, Miami, and Philadelphia) and we will most likely expand in those cities. That shows the power of publicity. What is shocking to me is that 80% of audience members on Rotten Tomatoes and 4 of of 5 of them on Fandango liked the film. Clearly critics are out of touch with the people who actually vote with their pocket books. It makes me wonder if the press and critics don’t want a movie to succeed because they incorrectly think we are glorifying John Gotti,” says Dennis Rice who spearheaded marketing for Gotti. 

Back in December, Gotti‘s producers exercised a last minute option in their contract and pulled the movie away from Lionsgate Premiere as they craved a Cannes Film Festival premiere (which actually happened) and a theatrical release, not a day-and-date one. Vertical Entertainment took over as pic’s stateside distributor back in April.

Gotti‘s journey to the screen was epic in of itself including a revolving door of directors including Barry Levinson, Nick Cassavetes, and Joe Johnston, and actors including Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, the latter who sued the pic’s producers Fiore Films for $3M after the Oscar winner gained 30 lbs to play a role in the film, only to have his role and salary cut. The case was ultimately settled.