Ben Stein’s documentary, Expelled, is experiencing horribly dismal results at the box office. But the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture is trumpeting these results as wildly as possible. First, they are comparing the film only to documentaries, a genre which doesn’t generate large box-office revenues. And even in that company, the showing isn’t good. Nevertheless, in this blog entry: Expelled Posts 3rd Best Opening for A Documentary Ever, we are told:
Expelled had a huge opening weekend for a documentary film. … Based just on its opening weekend alone, Expelled is now #26 on the all-time box office list of documentaries. Among those documentaries, only Fahrenheit 9/11 and Tupac The Resurection had better opening weekends.
How is this possible? If you take a careful look at the website that lists the box-office performance of documentaries: top 100 documentaries, you will notice an interesting fact. While Expelled opened at 1,052 theaters, most of the others opened at only a handful of theaters. Fahrenheit 9/11, the top-ranked documentary, opened at 868 theaters (and had a bigger opening weekend than Expelled). After that, the largest number was for Tupac: Resurrection, which opened at 801 theaters (which also did better than Expelled). The next highest was 561 theaters for Imagine: John Lennon. After that there are only a few with theaters numbering in the 200s and 300s.
Over half the films on that list opened at less than 10 theaters — including 16 that are ranked higher than Expelled.
Expelled towers above all other documentaries on the list in only one way — it opened at 1,052 theaters. On a per-theater basis, the results are disappointing indeed.