Saturday, April 19, 2008


Tithing at the Multiplex

Well, the opening box office results are in for Expelled and, it appears that, between the call to prayer from the minarets and the buzz rising up from the labs and campuses, it has opened strong:

The biggest shocker turns out to be a film I never heard of until just now, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a documentary featuring Ben Stein "as he seeks to determine whether religious based Intelligent Design / Creationism is a pseudo-science trying to undermine evolutionary biology or whether it is legitimate science being suppressed by a scientific establishment that is hostile to any deviation from the status quo." Yeah, that's the plot and apparently faith-based organizations are all over it to the tune of $1.12 million on Friday earning it the eighth slot and is expected to finish the weekend in ninth with an estimated $3.1 million.

Here's the complete weekend estimate ...

1. The Forbidden Kingdom (Lionsgate) - $19.15 million
2. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Universal) - $18.1 million
3. Prom Night (Sony) - $10.05 million
4. 88 Minutes (Sony) - $7.12 million
5. 21 (Sony) - $5.95 million
6. Nim's Island (Fox) - $5.31 million
7. Street Kings (Fox) - $3.54 million
8. Horton Hears a Who (Fox) - $3.46 million
9. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Rocky Mountain Pictures) - $3.1 million
10. Leatherheads (Universal) - $2.93 million
Of course, a fast start doesn't mean it will have "legs." One problem it will have is the start of the summer movie blitz, with Iron Man opening in two weeks. Then comes the stiffest possible competition it could face, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, followed closely by Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

That's show biz ...

Speaking of it being show biz, Afarensis has another site with about the same numbers but a whole different take:

Nathan Frankowski's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is a documentary being released on more than 1,000 screens by Christian-friendly Rocky Mountain Pictures. Those who have seen it categorize it as anti-Darwinism propaganda, featuring right wing commentator Ben Stein. I’m sure that there's an audience out there somewhere for this type of doc, but there has been very little "intelligent design" involved in marketing the movie. With a Total Aware of only 19 percent and a First Choice score of just 2 percent, Expelled will manage only $1 million-$3 million this weekend, and it will have a difficult time holding on to those screens. It's doomed to $5 million domestic in its theatrical engagements (survival of the fittest?), although a fair number of DVD copies may be sold in evangelical bookstores in the future.

There's those 1,000 screens chasing after that impressive sounding $1.1 million.

And, as PVM reminds us at The Panda's Thumb, the PR people for the movie were saying that "they would consider the opening weekend successful if the movie sold 2 million tickets (earning $12-15 million)."


In comparison, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 grossed $23.9 million in 868 theatres on its opening weekend and $8,565,000 on it's first day.

Saturday's numbers are in and, if anything, Expelled is slipping:

One notable success has been the intelligent design doc Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, featuring Ben Stein. Released on 1,000+ screens by the small Christian-based Rocky Mountain Pictures, this little doc picked up another $1.03M on Saturday, and it will finish the weekend with just under $3M. Not bad for a movie shot on a shoestring, released by a virtually unknown distributor and promoted very lightly.

But the author, Steve Mason, doesn't seem to realize that its showing on over 1,000 screens makes for a poor per theater take, or to be aware of the hopes of the producers to tap into a Passion Of The Christ-like box office phenomenon. Next we'll have to see if post-church viewings will boost the take or whether Christians will take Sunday as a day of rest seriously.

One thing that should be taken into account is that Expelled is opening on over 1000 theaters, and with such a low gross, the number is likely to drop precipitously and take the box office along with it. Sicko opened in 440 theaters and grossed 4.1 million on it's opening weekend, surpassing the current projections for Expelled in less than half the venues. Given that both are relatively high profile documentaries with huge advertising budgets, this comparison really puts things into perspective.

The film is definitely going to be a considered a box office and critical failure, but the DI will spin it as they always do when they suffer a loss.
And wouldn't you know, I look at UD and it seems that they are already looking for excuses...
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