Sarah Palin Doc Update: $68,000 on 10 Screens, 0% With 10 Critics
Both political and film-industry observers alike kept an eye on this weekend's box office for more than just Harry Potter's record-setting haul. It also happened to be the opening frame for The Undefeated, director Stephen K. Bannon's notorious documentary about the ascent of Sarah Palin to the national political stage. So how did it do in limited release?
That depends on whom you ask. Estimates from the 10 theaters where The Undefeated debuted -- including locations in Orange County, Orlando, Houston and other ideologically simpatico markets (certainly not New York or Los Angeles) -- settle around $68,000. That would place its all-important per-screen average at $6,800, which, as one wag notes, was enough to beat Fox Searchlight's new Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, but, as anyone else who follows the box office will tell you, is not what you'd call a rousing indie success.
Modest, though? Sure. And you know what? That's fine! As Bannon mentioned to THR:
"We didn't put a nickel of P&A into this and the distributor had the movie for only three weeks. To describe this as anything but a hit is inaccurate. [...] We took out only one ad, which is what AMC required of us. We did a high-risk thing. I wanted to see how we could open on word-of-mouth and social media," said Bannon.
Bannon also said the numbers are misleading, given the small theaters where Undefeated played.
"This is a documentary opening against Harry Potter on the toughest weekend of the year. We had small numbers but only in small theaters. In bigger markets, like Orange County, we'll do $12,000 per screen," Bannon said.
Of course, the real test comes in the ensuing weeks -- expansion, word-of-mouth, and God, those reviews.
The critical hemorrhaging continued over the weekend with another pair of pans added to The Undefeated's Rotten Tomatoes page, which remains at 0 percent fresh. That is very difficult to achieve and even harder to maintain, particularly for politically minded films; even Ben Stein's reviled intelligent-design doc Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed found a few friendly sources to beat the critical drum on its behalf. Is there no one out there -- at least besides Bannon's laudatory friend writing at Big Hollywood -- who will do the same for The Undefeated?