“The Last Temptation of Jesus Christ,” a 1988 low-budget film by Hollywood standards, proved to be a low grosser as well, according to Larry Cohen, film editor of Variety, the entertainment trade journal published in New York.
Mr. Cohen said that it cost six and a half million dollars to make and its actual earnings to date in the United States and Canada were $3,739,000. (Costs do not take in the advertising and promotion expenses that could run to another million dollars). Because it was considered blasphemous by many who were offended, its showing worldwide was hampered in a number of countries by demonstrations and picketing of the theatres showing it.
It was, according to Mr. Cohen, not a general audience film, and was not in wide release. It is, however, he said, not completely played out, because it has yet to go into cable. “Cable goes for sex and controversy,” Cohen said, “in order to attract customers. And after that there’s video release.
He likened it to a recent Spanish feature film, “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” which was made for only $2,000,000 so that, and with only limited showing, its break-even point is not hard to attain.
“Last Temptation” is a modest success said Cohen. It is in the grey area. It’s got a good musical score and if it got an Academy Award nomination for that, it might go a lot further. It’s no Eddy Murphy film and I can’t see it playing at Easter on TV.