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Is Sony Pictures Walking a Fine Line?

Sony Pictures just released its new film The Walk, which tells the true story of French tightrope artist Philippe Petit’s high wire walk between the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center in 1974.

While the film is getting attention for the performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays Petit, many early reports are talking about the vertigo-inducing filmmaking and cinematography. Director Robert Zemeckis has reportedly said he wanted audiences to experience vertigo, and according to reports (and Tweets) from the New York Film Festival, they are.

Is this a brilliant public relations strategy, or one that will make fewer people go see the film and ultimately hurt at the box office? At this point, it is too early to tell since the film doesn’t open to wide release until October 9. In general, though, having audience members say, “The film made me want to throw up,” is not a great endorsement. Fortunately for Sony and Zemeckis, those types of statements have been followed by praise for the cinematography with at least one reviewer saying, “I have never seen a film look better in the glory of IMAX and 3D than this one.”

Certainly there are people who go to the movies to feel uncomfortable, which is why horror movies are such a big genre. But there is a difference between fear and nausea. Pokémon cartoons were heavily scrutinized when they were alleged to cause seizures in some children.

The box office and awards season will tell how this film will fare. It may get more criticism for relocating the Twin Towers to Midtown in the movie poster than for making people woozy.

Melissa Arnoff is a Senior Vice President at LEVICK and a contributing author to LEVICK Daily.

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