As of March 5, the movie “Cocaine Bear” has clawed its way to $41.4 million in box office receipts in the United States and Canada, and $11.8 million across other territories, giving the new comedy thriller a worldwide total of $53.2 million, surpassing expectations.
The comedy/horror movie has been as popular throughout Idaho, with many Idahoans bearing the cold to go out and see the cocaine-crazed bear.
“The movie has done really well, especially considering it’s R rated which can be fairly hit and miss for us,” said Brandon Lott, general manager of Royal Theaters in Idaho Falls. “It takes a true story, makes some changes, adds a comedic twist and people have enjoyed it a lot.”
The movie even gave “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” Disney’s latest Marvel movie, a run for its money — “Ant-Man” winning this past weekend with $31.9 million but “Cocaine Bear” not far behind, making $28.4 million, AP reports.
The film, loosely inspired by a true story, follows a bear’s violent and cocaine-driven killing spree through a small Georgia town, following the bear’s consumption of a duffel bag full of drugs that were dropped on nearby Blood Mountain.
But despite all the giggles and chills, wildlife experts want people to understand the film is not reality.
Gregg Losinski, who worked as a human bear contact expert for nearly 30 years, took some time out of his weekend to see the viral movie.
“I’ve seen it, and for what it is, it’s entertaining, but it is not at all factual,” Losinski said. “The original bear, which was a 175-pound black bear, simply overdosed and died due to the drug consumption.”
Losinski, not wanting what happened to sharks because of the “Jaws” franchise to also happen to bears, said the movie definitely does not help people’s perception of bears and people should not be afraid; the likelihood of the movie’s story line happening in real life being extremely low.
“Historically, the bear who ate the cocaine was a black bear,” Losinski said. “We have about a million black bears in North America, nowhere near endangered anymore, and generally they don’t want to mess with people. They show a little interest but if you show any resistance, they are generally going to back off.”
The Ursus americanus in the movie, depicted as bigger than 400 pounds, bears little similarity to the actual one, who died in 1985 due to the illegal transport of drugs by smugglers flying over Georgia and Tennessee.
“I noticed in the movie that they go between images of real black bears and a CGI (computer-generated image) black bear, but if you watch closely, the more they use the CGI, the more it looks grizzly-like, because people are more afraid of grizzly bears,” Losinski said, “That is part of what we do as humans, we exploit imagery.”
When Losinski worked for Idaho Fish and Game, he said he would always tell people to respect wildlife but not to fear it.
“It’s easy to be afraid of grizzly bears or sharks or even black bears on cocaine but the reality is, those fatalities are much lower than you think. People should really be watching out for things like ticks and mosquitoes, which are a much more likely threat.”
While the state of Idaho does see a few bear attacks each year and does have quite a large number of both black bears and grizzlies, state officials have never reported a human fatality caused by either species.
Losinski said, compared to dog attacks — which in the United States are in the thousands every year — the very few bear attacks should not be of alarming concern.
Echoing back to his earlier warning, Losinski cautions Idahoans to be prepared and respectful but not afraid of the wildlife around them.
“This is bear country and people need to be aware of that,” Losinski said.
The grizzly bear has a pronounced shoulder hump, unlike the black bear. Grizzlies have a concave or “dished” facial profile, smaller ears and much larger claws than the black bear. Black bears have a flatter profile, larger rounded ears and 1-inch claws, better suited to climbing trees than digging.
“Once you begin to see those things, hopefully you are slowly backing out of the area,” Losinski said. “If the animal tries to charge at you, that is when it’s important to know what kind of bear it is because black bears can be intimidated, unless they are on cocaine probably, but grizzly bears generally cannot be intimidated. They know they are big and large. You do not want to look like a threat to them. You lie down and play dead. If you play dead for a black bear, it thinks it has won and it might come over and chew on you. With a black bear you scream, yell, punch and kick.”
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