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Did ‘Snakes on a Plane’ Bite ‘Borat’?

Hit plays crappy theater.

Downtowners who thronged to see Borat opening weekend had only one option: the Kazakh-esque Village East at 12th Street and Second Avenue, which offers neither phone ticketing nor lobby space. Viewers waited outside in the rain for tickets, and then again on lines up to 500 feet long to get into (sometimes late) screenings. Which gave them plenty of time to wonder why 20th Century Fox, the film’s distributor, didn’t choose a better location downtown, like maybe the comparatively regal nearby Regal Union Square? Scuttlebutt in the industry was that Fox lost its nerve after another Internet-hyped movie, Snakes on a Plane, flopped. “They didn’t want Peter Bart writing in Variety, ‘Why didn’t they open on fewer screens?’ ” said one film-distribution insider. Two weeks before it opened, Fox in fact slashed Borat’s opening from 2,000 screens to 837. A Fox spokesman denies that the placement at the Village East had anything to do with a lack of confidence in the film. But thirteen of seventeen Fox releases this year have played at the Regal, including X-Men: The Last Stand and The Devil Wears Prada. The Village East got John Tucker Must Die.

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