MovieChat Forums > Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979) Discussion > Aug 17: Why did it get a limited US open...

Aug 17: Why did it get a limited US opening, instead of a UK premiere?

Strange that the UK wide opening was three weeks after the US limited.

Wikipedia: Life of Brian opened on 17 August 1979 in five North American theatres and grossed US$140,034 ($28,007 per screen) in its opening weekend. Its total gross was $19,398,164.


This one answers my question.

Why classic comedy the Life of Brian was so controversial

Fearing criminal action, the Monty Python team decided to have the premiere in New York as it did not have any blasphemy laws. It opened in five cinemas, the biggest being Cinema 1 in New York.

On August 17 the film opened to good reviews and massive protests by Christians, mostly, but also by Muslims and Jews, none of whom could possibly have seen the film.

This was to be a recurring theme over the next few months – vehement protests and condemnations by people who had not seen the movie.

Religious leaders in the USA queued up to blast the film which only ended up making it even more popular – John Cleese would later say to the critics “thanks for making me rich”.

EMI were committed to financing the film but two days before the cast and crew moved to Tunisia for the main shoot, EMI chief Bernard Delfont pulled the plug after somebody in the organisation read the final script.

At the last minute, in stepped George Harrison, the former Beatle, who put up $4 million of his own money. He said he owed the Pythons because their antics had kept him sane during The Beatles’ break-up.


40 Years Ago: ‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian’ Weathers Protests

Another moment that could’ve gone south, but managed to work within the confines of the film, featured Chapman in his birthday suit. Playing the title character, Chapman at one point reveals all, inadvertently to hundreds of onlookers. The film’s production, in Tunisia, used a lot of Muslim extras, which posed a problem here, since Muslim women were, by their religious tenets, not supposed to see a random nude man, as they would here. “When I flung open the shutters," Chapman remembered, "half the crowd ran away screaming.” Though the film eventually got the shot as expected, it was yet another case of foreshadowing of what could happen with the film’s release.

But it wasn’t without protest in the U.S. The weekend of its release, there was a response from Rabbi Abraham Hecht of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. As quoted in The Guardian, his response was “Never have we come across such a foul, disgusting, blasphemous film before. …[Brian] was produced in hell.” Soon after, members of the Protestant and Catholic Churches chimed in, dubbing the film “a disgraceful assault on religious sensitivity” and the latter group rating it as “Condemned."

Of course, all the complaints and protests did was a version of what’s now known as the Streisand Law, after Barbra Streisand complained about photos of the beachside view of her Malibu house violating her privacy, which only served to make more people aware of the photos and her house. The protesting of Life of Brian may have been designed to quash the film’s popularity, but the opposite wound up being true. The film was originally intended to open on just 200 screens in the U.S., but got triple that number based on people’s interest levels, goosed up by the criticisms.


Someone synced "What have the Romans done for us" audio to a recent Parliament Q&A video. Funny if you know who Boris Johnson and Corbyn are.