After months of breathless anticipation...at least among scientists..."Expelled" has finally opened at the box office. I'm not really sure how much of the public besides the scientific community was really aware of this crock-umentary.
And it showed at the box office. Somehow, the producers of Expelled managed to open it on over 1,000 screens, very impressive for a non-Hollywood film. But the per-screen take wasn't so good, only about $1,000 per screen per day. That won't really pay the movie theaters' bills. And since only a percentage of the take goes back to the producers, Expelled seems unlikely to be profitable at the box office. Still, I'd bet that they'll eventually make it back through video sales and rentals. Any film that can secure a cult following will eventually do so, and any film that targets a particular niche as clearly as this one does should secure a cult following. (Don't you just love the irony of describing right-wing Christians as cult followers?)
I think the filmmakers must have fallen for the myth of the silent majority--that great huge group of Americans that are being ignored and suppressed in our capitalistic and democratic system. It's a classic example of selection bias. "Everyone I know thinks evolution's a crock, so everybody must think evolution's a crock, so there must be a large crowd just begging for a film like ours. Why they'll all flock to see it, proving once and for all that most Americans really do agree with us!"
It never happens, of course. There's a comment on a prior post here suggesting that lots of people in my county are actually against CAFOs. But I suspect that person's circle of friends is not randomly distributed among county residents, and what the survey shows is that 48% of respondents think CAFOs are, overall, beneficial for the county, with only 31.6% thinking they are, overall, harmful (and a sizable 20.4% saying "neither" or "don't know").
Overcoming biases in our thinking is just damned hard. Fortunately it probably doesn't matter that much most of the time, but when you sink millions into a movie, it might hurt a bit. Even if they do make their money back eventually, the opportunity costs are pretty doggone high--they could have invested that money into CDs and probably come out ahead of where they'll be.