There's a nice article in the Wall Street Journal about how delicately Brokeback Mountain was marketed. The goal was not to draw controversy, but rather to avoid it. The strategy worked, and Brokeback is one of the biggest hits this year. They also played very close attention to the social "microclimates" of New York City, bringing a little chaos theory into their marketing ideas. Me likey.
Like microclimates in Napa Valley that can produce dramatically different wines, neighborhoods in Manhattan can draw entirely different audiences: Chelsea attracts gay viewers, the Village students, the Lincoln Center-area affluent boomers. Word of mouth from a Manhattan opening can determine with what audience a film succeeds or fails.
Normally, 'Brokeback' would have opened in downtown theaters in the SoHo-East Village areas -- typical for an art-house film. Instead, on its opening weekend Dec. 9, Mr. Foley placed 'Brokeback' into a megaplex in Chelsea, another uptown at Lincoln Center, and only one near Greenwich Village. 'I didn't want New York to say this is an art-house film,' says Mr. Foley. 'I wanted a mix of voices talking about it to defeat it being called 'a gay cowboy movie.' '
Being a romantic, I also think that the movie does well because the crafting of the cinematography, editing and sound is well worth repeated viewings on the large screen. The incredible acting from top to bottom helps too - I think people are taken aback when they see actors who really act.