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Apocalypto Buzz

Crazy Mel and his subtitled, violent, cinematically rich ancient Mayan movie is the buzz of the day. Gory head-rolling is perfect fare for the reliable teen boy moviegoing audience … and the language-transcending action scenes and yes, blood, may well overcome the poison of subtitles and all of Mel’s bad publicity.

"Apocalypto", distributed by Disney, is the most controversial film of the year - opening on 2,465 screens today. After Mel’s anti-semitic rantings, Disney seriously considered dumping its distribution deal, even though it would have made quite a mess. Instead, Disney waited as Mel went on his campaign to clean up his image and then made the PR focus on the film, not the filmmaker.

Disney and Mel’s real angle is with the Hispanic and Native American community - doing a huge PR push and endless screenings to build word of mouth and make this a film about their heritage. (Word on the street: he even made some editorial changes after hearing some feedback about head rolling scenes being offensive etc). Here’s the thing, Disney won’t really cash in that much on this one - they just get a distribution fee - Mel financed it, so he’ll be the one to profit.

The thing about a film like this is its huge international appeal - action that speaks louder than subtitles. Apocalypto opens today in Russia through a local distributor (no one in Russia cares about Mel’s rants) and in Austria and Germany next weekend, and other major markets starting early next year. And as I wrote earlier in my blog, the future is overseas ticket sales.

Keep an eye on Happy Feet’s international expansion - that’s another film that doesn’t need so much translation…

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.