June 28, 2004


'Fahrenheit 9/11' a No. 1 Hit Across America (Dean Goodman, 6/28/04, Reuters)

Bush-bashing became the nation's favorite spectator sport over the weekend as Michael Moore's red-hot documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" earned more in its first three days of release across North America than his previous record-breaking movie did in its entire run.

According to studio estimates issued on Sunday, "Fahrenheit 9/11," in which Moore takes aim at President Bush, and the war in Iraq, opened at No. 1 after selling about $21.8 million worth of tickets in the United States and Canada since June 25.

Or a mere 2/3rds of what last week's #1 made: Dodgeball.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 28, 2004 9:16 AM

The Passion of the Christ made about $5 million more, $26 million total, on its first DAY, than Moore's flick did on its first 3 days.

Posted by: MG2 at June 28, 2004 10:53 AM

Moore's box-office numbers always attract attention because they are invariably compared to other documentaries, which generally do not receive national release. While Moore typically calls himself an entertainer, the gross of his films are not compared to those of entertainment films, where $21 million over a weekend would not be considered a major accomplishment.

For a little perspective: KANGAROO JACK, a film nobody considers a vital instrument of social change, grossed somewhere around $150 million, or seven times what FAHRENHEIT has earned so far. Even THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, another film trumpeted as damaging to Bush's chances, earned multiple times what FAHRENHEIT has, and is not being discussed in major forums, only a few months after its release. Loud is not the same thing as influential: the gross so far reflects attendance by roughly 3-5 million people, a pittance when it comes to Federal elections. How many Republicans/Bushies/war-supporters saw the film, and how many of these have converted to Kerry? No one can say, but it's hard to believe it'd be enough to turn the tide.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at June 28, 2004 11:17 AM

A correction: KANGAROO JACK actually earned some $66 million in American box office receipts. I'm not sure where I heard the "$150 million" figure from; that may be the total earnings including video sales and the like.

Looking up box office figures from last year also brought up these fun facts: FARHENHEIT 9/11 has so far earned less money than such enduring achievements in cinematic excellence as PIGLET'S BIG MOVIE ($23 million), RUGRATS GO WILD ($39 million), GOOD BOY! ($37 million - I don't even remember this one), SCHOOL OF ROCK ($79 million), and the immortal ELF ($165 million, eight times the proceeds of FAHRENHEIT). Considering that the first week of a film's release is almost always its most lucrative, one wonders if FAHRENHEIT will never reach the political impact and far-reaching influence of RUGRATS GO WILD.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at June 28, 2004 11:38 AM

I was in the coffee shop this morning, and I heard folks talking about it -- same old crowd: grey ponytails, sandals, nothing else to do but hang out in the coffee shop and jaw jaw jaw. . . .

Posted by: Twn at June 28, 2004 11:52 AM

Just to touch again on The Passion of the Christ: opening weekend - $76 million; U.S. gross to date - $370 million; Worldwide gross to date - $604 million. All that by a film that the critics, the same critics who seem to love Moore's schlockumentries so much, predicted would bomb.

Of course they claimed it would bomb because it was in Aramaic and Latin, and American's hate subtitles. They predicted it would bomb because it was too brutal, and that it treated the Passion too realistically. They predicted it would bomb because of the protesting crowds and that the movie would inspire anti-semitism. They claimed it would bomb because it was a serious movie about Christ and it's target market was Religious Christians - and everyone knows that they don't go to movies. They were wrong then and they had to eat a lot of crow. I'll let them have their self delusion for now - watching them wake up to reality when Dubya is re-elected in a landslide will be worth it.

Posted by: Robert Modean at June 28, 2004 12:01 PM

911 opened Friday in 19 DC-area theaters. This is about nine times the normal distribution for documentaries. The usual pattern is one theater in DC and one in NorVA, although Harry Thomasson's The Hunting of the President is showing at only one theater. 911 was the only film to receive a full page ad in the Post's Weekend section.

In October 2002 Bowling for Columbine opened in only 8 theaters NATIONWIDE. That fillm enentually grossed $21 million domestic; its best overseas gross was almost $6 million (France, of course).

Grosses usually drop more than 50% after the opening weekend. Even with all the hype, I doubt 911 will hit $40 million domestic. And if it grosses twice that, so what? Its influence can't begin to compare with that of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS, and NPR, all of which have been in Kerry's corner for months.

Posted by: at June 28, 2004 12:04 PM

So the release of the highest-grossing documentary not pertaining to music or ditributed in IMAX theaters EVER doesn't connote a cultural watershed? I can remain literate and my life relevant without having to see it? Hmmm, guess the WaPo was wrong . . .

(If you've read the reviews, aren't the awkwardly-placed qualifiers like "Moore claims" or "so Moore alleges" amusing? They're so obviously the work of editors trying to keep their reviewers from exposing their raving moonbatism).

Posted by: AC at June 28, 2004 12:42 PM

Documentaries my @$$. What Cheney said ... "Bigtime."

I'm going to make a poster of that response.

Posted by: genecis at June 28, 2004 1:08 PM

As noted above the 1st place finish and $20MM gross sound impressive until compared to other films. It barely beat out White Chicks for #1 and White Chicks doesn't look like a big hit. And of course Spiderman 2 comes out on 6/30 which should blow F911 away. It will probably do $50-75MM in sales but unless it changes a bunch of voters minds, which seems doubtful, its impact will not be that great.

Posted by: AWW at June 28, 2004 2:15 PM

Here's the real question: How did it do against Zoolander, the only film that had the wontons to blow open the biggest male model/brainwashed assassin conspiracy of the last two centuries?

Posted by: Governor Breck at June 28, 2004 2:50 PM

Robert Modean:

I remember laughing hysterically while reading articles about The Passion months before its release, in which the usual rigamarole was spouted: it would surely bomb at the box office; it would never find a distributor, etc. There was additional speculation that the film would never "reach" an important target audience (!).

These people truly have no clue. I suppose they're now wondering why The Passion was so popular, since nobody they know ever saw it!

By the way, check this out if you ever doubted that movie reviewers are predominantly left-wing.

Posted by: Matt at June 28, 2004 4:53 PM

Michael Moore the Documentarian

Criticizers of The Press and Michael Moore should vehemently take issue with the press term "documentary filmmaker." A term such as "editorial filmmaker" is definitely closer to the mark.

My greatest experience with documentaries consists of an annual film festival in Philadel;phia in the 1970s. The documentaries consistently presented the statements of the SUBJECT participants rather than the FIMMAKING participants. One can concentrate on observing the "world" of the documentary, rather than the "mindset" of the filmmaker, through the use of brief on-screen messages: "April 1, 1952" "Downtown Cleveland, Ohio" "The boy's paternal grandmother." Who's pointing out that Michael Moore last made a documentary in .... ??

One year the film festival featured a series of documentaries from one filmmaker, on American institutions: law and order; health care; the courts; public schooling; religions, etc. ONE of his documentaries was NOT shown. You had to drive to nearby King of Prussia, PA, for its film-festival showing. Why? Because it dealt with publlic education, and was filmed in Philadelphia! A few years before, the teachers union had won a court order, banning the showing of the vile documentary within Philadelphia.

This illustrates that each documantarian must definitely engage in editorializing, since the film footage far exceeds what can appear in the final product. Prioritization and consequent selection is definitely necessary and quite significant, but this necessity does not support the claim that Micael Morre remains within the realm of documentary production .

I predict that when Micael Morre must answer for various distortions in the film, he'll argue that the nature of his artistic tapestry and its more-encompensing values justify a "little" inconsistency here-and-there. Such is the "art" of his "documentary."

Posted by: Larry H at July 1, 2004 9:07 AM