So, after all the hype and hoopla, how did Ben Stein’s propoganda snuff-film, ‘Expelled’ do at the box office? Keep in mind the following little points:
- ‘Expelled opened on an unprecendented 1.052 screens, the most ever for a documentary
- It was intensely covered by the press beforehand, given especially favorable time on the ‘fair and balanced’ Fox News
- The filmmakers hired no fewer than four separate PR firms to promote it, and developed an extensive web presence, ialong with information kits and special treatment for groups from schools and churches.
- As we know from the ads that kept popping up on the SGU website, they flooded the internet with advertising
- They offered a random prize drawing to school groups that collected and turned in their ticket stubs, and in the first couple of weeks after the ‘film’ opened, they offered to pay between $5 and $10 per ticket stub to these groups.
So here are the results: The film opened in the above mentioned 1,052 screens and rang up $2.7 million in the first weekend. The 2nd weekend the total dropped to $1.3 million, and then to $678,000 and $328,000 in the 3rd and 4th weeks. Altogether, as of the end of May, 2008, ‘Expelled’ grossed about $7.6 million.
The filmmakers will be quick to mention that this makes ‘Expelled’ the 12th highest grossing documentary since 1982 – though with numbers not adjusted for inflation (to be fair adjusting for inflation probably only drops it one place, to 13th). Their $2.9 million opening weekend seemed fairly strong on the face of it, but considering the number of theaters, the heavy promotion, and the financial give-backs to schools, this is actually pathetic.
Turns out you couldn’t even pay people to sit through this drivel, and the hoped-for groundswell of church and school groups and tie-ins never materialized. I think we can count this as a big win for the good guys.
Oh, and a nod to our northern friends: The movie opened in Canada on June 27th – I was trying to excerpt this, but the whole paragraph is so good that I’ll shamelessly steal from wikipedia:
The movie opened in Canada on June 27, 2008 at 36 theaters and grossed $24,374 with a premier at 20th closely behind Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic, a Hindi language film. The movie was given a score of 0 and called Expelled “an appallingly unscrupulous example of hack propaganda” by the The Globe & Mail. It was also criticized by Vue Weekly as “anti-science propaganda masquerading as a Michael Moore-ish fool’s journey, full of disingenuous ploys, cheap tricks, and outright mendacity.” Notably in an interview promoting the film, Vancouver Sun writer Peter McKnight asked for Stein to comment on the Anti-Defamation League‘s statement condemning the use of the Holocaust to further an anti-evolution agenda, to which Stein replied, “It’s none of their fucking business.” On the movie, the reviewer wrote, “In effect, then, the producers are doing precisely what the Nazis did: Distorting Darwin’s writing in order to justify their beliefs.”
(I’ve left wikipedia’s references in, because hey, why not?) You go, Canada.