Chris Mooney is claiming Expelled is a box office success. Documentaries don’t make a very big splash typically, but whatever you think about the impact of Expelled, the fact that Fahrenheit 9/11 will go down as a much bigger success illustrates the contrast between depth and breadth of feeling from their respective audiences. Michael Moore’s politics have a smaller potential audience than the half of Americans who are Creationist, and the 3/4 of Americans who are open to the idea of “equal time,” but the devotees of Moore’s brand of Leftism are far more intense in their sentiment. I am not totally ignorant of the dynamics of Creationist politics in the United States, the history seems to be one where every time the movement manages to exceed a particular threshold of success a counter-reaction quickly dampens its damage. Despite the broad sympathy from the masses for the Creationist cause the intensity of elite feeling on this topic means that a position held by half of Americans remains marginal in the commanding heights of the culture.
Here’s the assessment from Weekend Box Office:
Ben Stein’s documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed managed to make it all the way to ninth place despite only showing on 1,000 screens. The beauty of documentaries these days is that you have some kind of built in audience so long as your subject matter and approach is controversial enough.
It’s a secret Michael Moore has been using to milk millions out of anti-Bushites for the last few years and now Expelled is benefitting. It doesn’t matter how much merit Stein’s message has, you can bet no one saw it who didn’t already agree with him.
While the movie has done moderately well in small release compared to most movies in small release, in the world of documentaries its nothing to get excited about. It will be lucky to break into the overall documentary top ten. Not too impressive since the other three documentaries that have made it to more than 1,000 screens are the top three financial performers.