Framing Advocates Wrong: Expelled Flops

Remember when PZ got kicked out of Expelled and wrote about it. Remember how upset the framing contingent was? How they claimed PZ was handing the makers of Expelled a PR victory? The evidence is in:

Nathan Frankowski’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is a documentary being released on more than 1,000 screens by Christian-friendly Rocky Mountain Pictures. Those who have seen it categorize it as anti-Darwinism propaganda, featuring right wing commentator Ben Stein. I’m sure that there’s an audience out there somewhere for this type of doc, but there has been very little “intelligent design” involved in marketing the movie. With a Total Aware of only 19 percent and a First Choice score of just 2 percent, Expelled will manage only $1 million-$3 million this weekend, and it will have a difficult time holding on to those screens. It’s doomed to $5 million domestic in its theatrical engagements (survival of the fittest?) [emphasis mine – afarensis], although a fair number of DVD copies may be sold in evangelical bookstores in the future.

So, after all the free – but negative – PR the scientific blogosphere has given Expelled, after the PZ kerfluffle, and the XVIVO infringement, Expelled isn’t going to be able to hold the theaters it opened in. Seems to me that there are times when pointing and laughing at stupidity can be an effective strategy…
Update 1: As Blake Stacy points out there are updated figures on Expelled:

One surprise success this weekend is Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a new doc from Nathan Frankowski featuring conservative commentator Ben Stein. Clearly Rocky Mountain Pictures has engineered a successful faith-based marketing campaign for this anti-evolution treatise. On 1,052 screens, the film finished #8 on Friday with $1.12M, and it’ll wrap the weekend with at least $3.1M. Expelled has dramatically out-performed a documentary from the other end of the political spectrum.

Here is a list of first weekend figures from other documentaries for comparison…

30 Responses

  1. But.. but… Bruce Chapman at the Disco Institute says that Expelled is going to be a classic!
    (From http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/04/discovery_salutes_expelled.html)

    This film is going to be a classic and there is nothing the fulminating opposition can do about it. (In recent days they even resorted to threatening lawsuits, just confirming their growing reputation for ill-liberal spite.)

    And the Black Knight always triumphs!

  2. But.. but… Bruce Chapman at the Disco Institute says that Expelled is going to be a classic!
    (From http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/04/discovery_salutes_expelled.html)

    This film is going to be a classic and there is nothing the fulminating opposition can do about it. (In recent days they even resorted to threatening lawsuits, just confirming their growing reputation for ill-liberal spite.)

    And the Black Knight always triumphs!

  3. This film is going to be a classic flop and there is nothing we can do about it.

    There, fixed it for Bruce…

  4. It will be a classic! In the same way that Reefer Madness is a classic.

  5. From the news section of the Expelled web site:
    “”Big Science Academy” is proud to have the support of the “Mainstream Press” in stifling the rise of freedom of speech in our science classrooms. In so many ways, “Big Science” and “Big Media” are on exactly the same page, when it comes to making sure that dissenters and troublemakers are properly expelled.”
    From Rotten Tomatoes, which provides a summary of movie reviews:
    Zombie Strippers: 40% (all critics), 38% (top critics)
    Expelled: 9% (all critics), 0% (top critics)
    Big Media: they hate dissent, but they kinda like zombie strippers.

  6. The next update is not so rosy:

    On 1,052 screens, the film finished #8 on Friday with $1.12M, and it’ll wrap the weekend with at least $3.1M.

    Not so great for the side of reason, but not nearly as bad as it could be.

  7. Pace decripitoldfool, Expelled will be a classic in the same way that Plan Nine from Outer Space by the same director, Ed Wood, is a classic: so bad that it epitomizes bad movies. Expelled epitomizes bad antiscience movies.

  8. At best this is correlation, not causation. The promotional campaign for this piece of schlock and the lack of pre-screenings for media critics speak more to the likely mediocre opening (for a doc, for a regular movie it would be a failure) for this piece of excrement. The ads rely on Ben Stein in a British schoolboy outfit trying to be a rebel. Content-free advertising for a film belies a lack of confidence in the content.
    In other words, the nattering of the nabobs in the science blogosphere (on both sides of this fight) likely matter for less than a hill of beans. We make the presumption that people outside of this circle both listen to us and give a damn. Not bloody likely.

  9. My bad. Ed Wood had no part in Reefer Madness. That was Louis J. Gasnier.

  10. Apparently all the media who reviewed Expelled!, panned it. One paper in, I think Tulsa(or some place in Oklahoma), gave it ½ star! I’ve never seen a rating that low in the Seattle media! At least not that I can remember. With those kinds of ratings, I don’t see how it’s going to make much money, not even in video sales.
    Anne G

  11. $3.1 million for the weekend, and a top 10 finish, makes it pretty darn successful. Surely it will have made its money back and then some.

  12. For what it’s worth, Expelled was booked into a thousand movie theaters for its opening weekend. Whereas some other documentaries (most notably An Inconvenient Truth) started small and gradually grew onto more screens, Expelled is certainly at its peak from Day One. It’s all downhill from here. Each week Expelled will be on fewer screens, its box office will fall (probably precipitously), and only its ambitious first-weekend bookings will boost its receipts. But only briefly.
    Next weekend will tell the tale for sure, but this weekend is already showing itself to be rather soft.

  13. It does not appear that the revised estimates are that much higher than the original ones. The original range is $1-3 million over the weekend, and revised estimate, $3.1 million barely exceeds the upper bound. Given the widespread critical *ahem* acclaim that the movie has been receiving, it is likely to have nowhere to go but down once it exhausts its original audience. Michael Moore has nothing to fear from Ben Stein.

  14. Michael Moore has nothing to fear from Ben Stein.
    Unless Ben tries to reduce the world’s supply of burgers, fries and jelly donuts, of course.

  15. Michael Moore has nothing to fear from Ben Stein.
    Unless Ben tries to reduce the world’s supply of burgers, fries and jelly donuts, of course.

  16. “Here is a list of first weekend figures from other documentaries for comparison…”

    In comparison to other entries on this list, Expelled is relatively high profile and (obviously) had a huge advertising budget. Opening in over 1000 theaters, it’s current projected first weekend gross is about $3.1 million. For comparison, Sicko had an opening weekend gross of $4.1 million in fewer than half the venues. The movie is definitely going to be considered a failure, but the DI will surely attempt to spin it as a victory somehow.

  17. My bad, the opening weekend gross for Sicko was actually $4.5 million.
    This further puts things into perspective, IMO…

  18. My bad, the opening weekend gross for Sicko was actually $4.5 million.
    This further puts things into perspective, IMO…

  19. Also, there are no (known) plans to release this propaganda piece anyplace outside the USA.
    The Sicko documentary, for instance, was released outside the USA (albeit I don’t know if that was in the original plans or not). And not just in English-speaking countries. Ditto An Inconvenient Truth and most(? all?) of the others mentioned.

  20. Some new figures:

    Playing in 1,052 theaters, the pic distributed by Rocky Mountain Pictures fell over the weekend from 8th to 10th place after earning $1.2M Friday and $989K Saturday for a $2.9M weekend. But the per screen average for Friday was a low $1,145 and for Saturday $940 (and $2,830 for the entire weekend), showing there wasn’t much pent-up demand for the film despite an aggressive publicity campaign on right-wing media. So much for the conservative argument that people would flock to films not representing the “agenda of liberal Hollywood”.

    See here, but beware of TEH BURNING STUPID in the comment section.

  21. Some new figures:

    Playing in 1,052 theaters, the pic distributed by Rocky Mountain Pictures fell over the weekend from 8th to 10th place after earning $1.2M Friday and $989K Saturday for a $2.9M weekend. But the per screen average for Friday was a low $1,145 and for Saturday $940 (and $2,830 for the entire weekend), showing there wasn’t much pent-up demand for the film despite an aggressive publicity campaign on right-wing media. So much for the conservative argument that people would flock to films not representing the “agenda of liberal Hollywood”.

    See here, but beware of TEH BURNING STUPID in the comment section.

  22. Also, recall that as reported by Ken McKnight, the Expelled PR flack Steve Schmidt said they would consider the movie successful if the opening weekend take was $12-15 million.

  23. Has anyone seen any hard figures, or even estimates, as to how much this thing cost? I haven’t seen it, but from what I’ve heard it doesn’t sound like it was an expensive film — I wonder if they’ve covered their production costs this weekend.

  24. Wikipedia sez the cost was $3.5 million, for whatever that’s worth. Once you factor in the cinemas’ cut (roughly half the ticket sales, AFAIK), it’s pretty unlikely they made their investment back this weekend.

  25. Here’s an article in Slate substantiating the 50% figure.

  26. Here’s an article in Slate substantiating the 50% figure.

  27. They may not have made back their money this weekend, but it seems pretty clear that in the end they will actually make some profit. I was really hoping that it would tank much harder than this, and that someone would be seriously out of pocket.
    On the positive side, in terms of the broader media, it doesn’t seem to have had much of an impact at this point.

  28. Blake – I’ve been hearing conflicting info on that issue. I’ve heard it starts at an 80/20 split in favor of the producers and eventually ends up at 50/50. I guess we will have to wait and see…

  29. Wow, I just read every comment from Blake’s link to deadlinehollywooddaily.net. It’s like they stuck all the crazy morons in a tiny tiny room and told them they all had rabies or something. It’s all frothing stupidity and mindless inane banter about how “true” Expelled is or how stupid conservatives or (or how evil liberals are) and literally, just overall stupid crap. There are no interesting comments, at all, it’s just poo-flinging from people frothing at the mouth.

  30. $3.1 million for the weekend, and a top 10 finish, makes it pretty darn successful. Surely it will have made its money back and then some.

    It won’t even make the money for its advertising back. (Well, “even” is probably misleading, because the advertising seems to have cost far more than the production itself.)
    This is not a for-profit movie. It’s a for-prophet movie.

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