Protesters led by ultra conservative group The American Society for the Defence of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) picketed the Hollywood premiere of Mexican priest scandal drama El Crimen Del Padre Amaro last Thursday. Samuel Goldywn Jr, whose company holds North American distribution rights, invited the group to watch the movie, but they declined.

The R-rated drama opened Friday (Nov 15) across key cities of the US scoring a respectable $450,000 (est) during its first three days on 43 screens. It reported a per screen average of $10,465.

Prior to its platform release, TFP organised mailings of thousands of postcards and letters denouncing the film to Samuel Goldwyn Films. According to Meyer Gottlieb, president of Samuel Goldwyn Films, the company has been receiving an average of 300 postcards a day the past four weeks. He has personally received handwritten letters with even more vicious overtones.

Fox News TV and the Los Angeles Times newspaper have also been bombarded with postcards from the society, urging them to "provide fair and extensive coverage on the deeply anti-Catholic movie."

In Los Angeles, where it opened on 23 screens, the LA Times critic Kenneth Turan gave it a glowing review. Leading critic Roger Ebert gave an equally positive review in the Chicago Sun Times. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal were less appreciative. The Latino media has given it blanket coverage since it opened. Aimed at the arthouse and mainstream Latino audiences, exit polls reveal that an equal number of both target groups have gone to see the film. While it's US final gross is unlikely to match the millions ($16.5m) made in Mexico -where it ranks as the biggest local hit ever - the good reviews and controversy may help generate further ticket sales.

Gael Garcia Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Amores Perros and the upcoming Motorcycle Diaries) and Ana Claudio Talancon play the priest and the 16 year old girl who have an affair that ends in tragedy.

Crimen was produced by Alameda Films in association with Wanda Vision (Spain), Art Cam (France), Cinecolor (Argentina), Blu Films (Mexico), and the Mexican Film Institute (IMCINE). Alfredo Ripstein and Daniel Birman, the father and nephew of Mexican director Arturo Ripstein respectively, served as producers. Columbia TriStar owns rights to the rest of the world on the film.