What's more, Expelled had to be carried into its position on the backs of students, church groups, and sympathetic zealots who were craving the free stuff (like free money!) from its marketing campaign. Christian schools who could provide the most ticket stubs from seeing Expelled earned the chance to win $10,000. Through the "Fetch A Friend" program, individuals and group leaders had the opportunity to win (hold breath) a movie poster AND a discussion guide. But only if you promised to bring 3 people with you on opening weekend. The really spirited leaders who could gather 25 people or more would have received a Ben Stein Bobble-Head, T-shirt, AND resource kit!
These may not be fair comparisons either, but they’re first-time documentaries headlined by a well-known or semi-well-known person.
Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me had a $12,601 per-theater opening weekend average from 41 theaters. It made $516,641 that weekend.
Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth had a $70,332 per-theater opening weekend average from 4 theaters. It made $281,330 that weekend.
Michael Moore’s Roger and Me had a $20,063 per-theater opening weekend average from 4 theaters. It made $80,253 that weekend.
Really, who wouldn't want a Ben Stein Bobble-Head to prove their commitment to academic freedom?
So, what is it called when a movie marketing campaign pays money to screw with people's heads? Promoting academic freedom or intellectual prostitution? And, who's the pimp and who's the john in this deceitful transaction?
A showing of $3200 per screen for a film that was more convenient to see than An Inconvenient Truth tells us that the premise behind the film isn't a concern to most people (and by most, I mean nearly everyone). It also tells us that Ben Stein is not a box office draw. Let's say that between Friday and Sunday, the film made $1100 per day per screen. Assuming that a movie ticket is $10, that means 110 people went to see the film at any one theater. If Expelled was shown 3 times during the day (a conservative estimate), then on average, there were only 37 people in the theater.
Only 37. And one of those had a Ben Stein bobble-head.
For more, see Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily and Daily Box Office (shows Expelled at #8), all useful links I learned from the Friendly Atheist blog, who also points out that this movie was the only one in the list that earned less on Saturday than it did on Friday.