Despite it’s distributing studio spending a butt ton of money on ads and marketing, Roland Emmerich’s disastrous cinematic take on the riots that started the Gay Rights Movement in 1969, was a huge bomb grossing only $871 on average per screen.
Released in 129 theaters, the film placed 29th on the box office chart — grossing just $112,414. That made for an average of just $871 per theater over the weekend, the lowest of any new release by a few thousand dollars. Break it down this way: Average movie tickets cost $8.12 right now (which we know, sounds very low). That suggests only 107 people on average went to see “Stonewall” in each of its theaters’ weekend showings combined.
Stonewall:The Movie was pilloried in the gay media back in August when its first trailer appeared which seemed to imply the film centered on a wholesome, white, masculine, young gay man as its leading character…and, the instigator of the Stonewall Riot on June 28, 1969. The gay community in general, but the trans community in particular erupted in anger at the film’s alleged “whitewashing” and “ciswashing” of the actual events. While the filmmakers scrambled to explain the film did contain trans characters and actors of color including real life ones like Marsha P. Johnson played by actor Otoja Abit, calmer heads in the community urged restraint until the film was actually released and available to the public.
The actual release of the film on Friday, September 25th confirmed most fears about the film and earned more scorn from the gay and trans communities plus nearly universal bad reviews from film critics (check out our review HERE). The trans community was again vehemently opposed to the film and called for an immediate boycott. Meanwhile, some gay activists were angered by the trans community’s insistence that trans women of color were the primary instigators at Stonewall and rebutted that gay white men were the majority of rioters during the week of rebellion in New York City’s Greenwich Village.
Of course the truth lies somewhere in between. Trans women and drag queens/kings were both prominent at Stonewall as were people of color and white men and women. It’s ridiculous to fight over who threw the first brick, (many people claim to have thrown it…) and, does it really matter? Be happy it was thrown.
And, both sides are being foolish. Some trans activists of today seem to be under the illusion that trans id’d people in 1969 were just the same as trans id’d people in 2015. They weren’t. Hormone treatments were very expensive and very difficult to get. Appearing in clothing of the so called “opposite sex” was illegal and highly dangerous. Most “femme” men were labeled as “queens” and most queens themselves used that term. The film actually has 4 femme/queen characters in the film including Marsha P. Johnson who herself tended to not strictly stick with always labeling herself as a transwoman. This doesn’t negate the badness of the film, but I’m not sure why the filmmakers are under fire for not having trans characters…they’re in the film but they’re not the trans characters some people would LIKE to see.
And, angry white gay men are also being stupid by insisting gay white men were the majority of the protest. Despite the fact the Stonewall was a dive bar with a very mixed clientele of all ages, sizes, colors, genders and sexualities. It was seedy and dirty and popular with the street kids/hustlers who lived/worked the streets in the area. There’s also contention over definitions of “whiteness” and “people of color” since many Latin people can see themselves or be seen as one or the other or both. Wishing/projecting a hope that an army of clean cut white yuppie gay men were leading the way is also ridiculous.
All in all, it’s a dumb fight over a film that’s not worth the discussion. It’s a corny movie full of cliches and stupidly made to appeal to straight rather than gay/queer audiences. It deserves to fail. And, the rest of us should stop bickering over “who threw the first brick” and remember that Stonewall wasn’t about ONE specific group of people. It was a magical moment when angry queens and trannies and hustlers and dykes and faggots of all colors/genders (but mostly poor) got TOGETHER to fight back against the Mob and the Cops and the Status Quo. It was about unity. Not bickering.