Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Free Speech Network : Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 sets box-office records

By David Walsh, From World Socialist Web Site

American director Michael Moore's documentary indictment of the Bush administration, Fahrenheit 9/11, set box-office records in its first few days in North American cinemas.

The subject of unprecedented anticipation and concerted right-wing attacks, Fahrenheit 9/11 set single-day records at its two New York City venues on its opening day June 23. The film sold $49,000 worth of tickets at the Loew's Village 7 in Manhattan, beating the theater's single-day previous record set by Hollywood blockbuster Men in Black, and more than $30,000 at the Lincoln Plaza theater, topping the total established at that cinema by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The success in New York was followed up nationwide over the weekend when Moore's film opened in 868 theaters in the US and Canada. Despite playing in a relatively small number of theaters (and many of them smaller, art-house venues), Fahrenheit 9/11 outperformed all other films and was number one at the box office, grossing an estimated $21.8 million in three days. The number-two film, White Chicks, opened in 2,726 theaters.

Fahrenheit 9/11 surpassed the domestic box-office record for a documentary—set by Moore's own Bowling for Columbine over the course of 10 months—in its first three days. Analysts are predicting a possible $100 million domestic box office, an unheard-of figure for a non-fiction film.

Paul Dergarabedian, president of a company that tracks box office returns, told the Washington Post that he was particularly impressed by the per-theater average of $25,115: "I'm amazed at those numbers. That type of per-theater average is usually reserved for a blockbuster." Fahrenheit 9/11's opening was the highest ever for a film opening in fewer than 1,000 screens.

Film industry experts had predicted much lower numbers for Moore's documentary. Variety had forecast a $10 million opening weekend. Market research had indicated that the film would rank second or third, behind two commercial comedies, White Chicks and Dodgeball (which was playing in 3,020 theaters). An executive with the studio that produced White Chicks told the New York Times, "This picture [Moore's] came from nowhere. It's what movie viewing has become. If you make it feel like it has urgency, people will have to go."

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