Monday, June 28, 2004

I guess making a poorly received speech at the Oscars doesn't spell death at the box office. Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 took in a whopping $23,920,637 this past weekend on 868 screens - an average of $27,558 per screen. With just those three days of shows, it becomes the highest grossing documentary film of all time.

To provide some context, last weekend's next highest grossing films were White Chicks and Dodgeball. White Chicks grossed $19,676,748 on 2,726 screens, for an average of $7,218 per screen. Dodgeball (in it's second week), took in $18,787,419 on 3,020 screens for an average of $6,220 per screen. Nothing else in the Top 25 comes close to the per screen average of those films...except of course, Fahrenheit 9/11, which crushed both of them like a grape.

Some more context...I worked at an art house movie theater when the Blair Witch Project hit a few years ago. That 250-seat house used to be thrilled with a weekly gross over $12,000. With the Blair Witch Project, they did around $40k per week. In fact, the Blair Witch Project is the only indie film I can recall that did similar per screen business as Fahrenheit 911. According to Box office Mojo, when Blair Witch went wide to 1,101 theaters, it took in $29,207,381 or an average of $26,528 per screen. In the opening weekend, when it was limited to 29 screens, Blair Witch did $1,512,054 or an amazing average of $56,002 per screen (of course, in those first two weeks of limited release, a lot of people thought it was some kind of doumentary horror mystery).

So what does it all mean? Well...let's start with money talks louder than politics. Like The Passion Of Christ, movie industry folks might get past their initial trepidation about Moore and his strange little movie and ride that documentary horse right to the bank.

Next up, I'd guess Michael Eisner's fate at Disney is deeply related to Bush's outcome this fall. If Bush goes and popular sentiment says Moore was right, those Disney shareholders are going to be mighty pissed that their company handed a multi-million dollar piece of pie to the pudgy but smart Weinstein Brothers at Miramax.

Finally, if you want to look down the road, The Blair Witch Project ended up doing worldwide grosses just shy of $250 million. It remains to be seen if Fahrenheit 9/11 will have legs, but I can only imagine it's going to be huge overseas.

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