Opening off the chart in 37th place this week, with $142,632, was Fox Searchlight's The Dreamers, Bernardo Bertolucci's heady tale of sexual awakening at the time of the 1968 student riots in Paris.

It opened in five New York and Los Angeles theatres for a superb $28,526 per-site average that defied both the NC-17 rating and lukewarm reviews. 'The release plan is classic platform,' Fox Searchlight's president of distribution Stephen Gilula told Screen International. 'We had the advantage of it being a film by a world-renowned film-maker and attracting considerable publicity because we decided to release the uncut version. It was the first time a major studio affiliate carried an NC-17 rating in six years.

'Unlike the 18 rating in the UK, in the US the NC-17 rating has been tainted and has a very negative connotation.' However, Gilula thought otherwise and did some research, concluding that the rating would not necessarily preclude advertising and theatre bookings. 'We screened it at Sundance. They liked it, so we decided to capitalise on the good publicity and moved the opening to February 6. It was a classic case of counter-programming: I felt that at this time of the year with the awards season in full flow audiences would want to see something new.'

Last weekend's opening and an advertising campaign that highlights some strong reviews from among others A O Scott in The New York Times should keep things ticking along nicely this week before the picture expands into 60 theatres in 19 markets including Canada this upcoming weekend (Feb 13). Gilula said The Dreamers would expand into around 100 sites a week later.